Ex-boyfriend who beheaded woman in San Carlos gets 26 years to life

A San Mateo County Superior Court judge on Tuesday sentenced a man to 26 years to life in prison after he was convicted of beheading his child's mother with a sword outside a home in San Carlos. 

Judge Lisa Novak also said that the sentence she imposed on Jose Landaeta does not feel sufficient, but is what she is required to do by law. 

"This is by far, the most difficult trial I've ever presided over, because of the true horror of the crime you've committed in butchering Ms. Castro," Novak said. 

Novak then called Landaeta, 34, of Hayward, "clever and manipulative" as he tried a mental health defense to deny responsibility for how he killed his ex.

"I want to be very clear," the judge said. "Untreated mental illness had nothing to do with your execution for Karina Castro." 

In November, a jury found Landeta guilty of the gruesome attack of his 27-year-old former girlfriend Karina Castro on September 8, 2022.

He killed Castro in broad daylight on a street, just feet from her apartment.

Castro and Landaeta shared a young daughter, and Castro also had an older daughter from a previous relationship.

Before he was sentenced, Castro's grandmother, Danielle Ganon, implored the judge to spare him no mercy.

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Father Martin Castro and grandmother Danielle Ganon bow their heads outside court after Jose Landaeta was sentenced for beheading Karina Castro in 2022.

"Please punish this monster to the fullest extent the law allows," she said.

She said her granddaughters still have nightmares and cry for their mother.

Mya Castro also spoke before the court, describing how her sister was the "glue that held our family together."

She said she is still "swallowed by rage" about what happened. 

"Where there should be peace, there is horror," she said. "We are not whole, we never will be again."

According to the San Mateo District Attorney's Office, 25 years to life with the possibility of parole is the maximum sentence for a first-degree murder conviction. The judge was allowed to tag on an additional year because of the weapon used in the killing. In order to sentence a criminal without parole, prosecutors would need to pursue a special circumstance; San Mateo prosecutors did not do that in this case.

"California is insane how that goes, I don't understand it," said Martin Castro, Karina Castro's father. 

Karina was born when he was 16 years old.

"If he used a gun, he'd get life without parole, death penalty or whatever. He butchered her, desecrated her body in the street and they're giving him a light sentence," her father said.

Family members say they're relieved they no longer have to drive to Redwood City from Vallejo for court proceedings, but feel closure is impossible.

Novak herself admitted the sentence delivered Tuesday morning, didn't feel like enough of a punishment.

"This was bittersweet, I guess you could say," said Castro, the victim's father. "I'm happy he's never going to see the street, at least for 24 and a half years, 25 years whatever. But again, why is he not getting life without parole?"