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Prosecutor: Samurai sword likely used in 'shocking' killing of San Carlos woman

The suspect, Jose Raphael Solano Landaeta, is alleged to have then walked away from the scene and placed the bloody sword in his car
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Police tape line. by Getty Images

A young mother who was nearly decapitated on the street in front of her San Carlos apartment last Thursday morning was likely killed with a samurai sword, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office. 

Authorities alleged that Karina Castro, 27, died after 33-year-old Jose Raphael Solano Landaeta, who is Castro's ex-boyfriend, used the sword, "slashing
numerous times causing the victim’s head to be almost severed."

The attack occurred around 11:40 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8, in the area of Magnolia Avenue and Laurel Street near downtown San Carlos in front of multiple witnesses on the street.

Landaeta of Hayward is alleged to have then walked away from the scene and placed the bloody sword in his car, which was parked two blocks away, according to the district attorney's office. 

When San Mateo County Sheriff's Office deputies arrived, they found Castro dead on the street and arrested Landaeta, who is said to have returned to the scene shortly afterward. He has been charged with murder. 

In a press conference Thursday, Sheriff's Office Lt. Eamonn Allen said that investigators had confirmed that a "stabbing instrument" had been the weapon that was used in the killing. That "stabbing instrument" has now been identified as a samurai sword.

Allen said that due to the "shocking nature" of the scene, deputies who first arrived "were a little beset by it." He added that the county would be providing them and witnesses at the scene with counseling services. 

Landaeta, who has a history of mental illness, was meant to be arraigned in court on Monday, but his defense attorney asked a judge to allow a doctor to examine his client's mental fitness and whether he was competent to stand trial. Criminal proceedings have been suspended, and a pair of doctors were appointed to report on Landaeta's competency, which could take up to 10 weeks, according to the district attorney's office. Landaeta’s case has been continued to Nov. 14. In the meantime, the court has issued a protective order against Landaeta to have no contact with Castro's two children, 7 and 18 months.

On Friday, San Carlos Mayor Sara McDowell was joined by the City Council to express their "deepest condolences" to the two young children. 

"Yesterday, our community was shocked by the tragic murder of a young mother in our community. Thanks to the quick reaction by neighbors calling 911, San Carlos deputies were able to quickly respond and immediately take a suspect into custody. It appears the victim and the suspect knew each other."

The city of San Carlos and the Community Foundation are partnering to accept and hold in trust donations for the future benefit of the victim's children. One hundred percent of all donations will go to the victim's children. Anyone interested in making such a gift may visit this link

"As we mourn together and process this event as a community, please remember to take care of yourself, and to check in on your neighbors and loved ones. There is no doubt that the resilience and heart of the City of Good Living will shine through the darkness of this tragedy."

Castro attended Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton between 2009 and 2011 before getting a GED. 

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Det. Brandt at (650) 333-8195 or dbrandt@smcgov.org.

Leah Worthington contributed to this story. Bay City News contributed to this story. 




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Michelle Iracheta

About the Author: Michelle Iracheta

Michelle Iracheta is the editor at the Redwood City Pulse. Her work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Seattle Times and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Michelle, a Houston native, is married and has two dogs.
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