Man convicted in grisly beheading of San Carlos mother

A man was found guilty of murder on Monday in the beheading of his child's mother outside a home in San Carlos. 

Jose Landaeta, 34, was the estranged boyfriend of Karina Castro, who was 27 years old at the time of her death. Landaeta was charged with first-degree murder in the gruesome attack that happened on September 8, 2022.

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

Prosecutors said that Castro suffered repeated blows to the neck with a samurai at the hands of Landaeta.

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

"I am worried about the animosity coming out. The blame, you know. Your dad killed my mom type of thing. I’m worried about that stuff. I’m going to try my best to make them understand that no matter what, they’re loved and cared for," said Martin Castro, Karina's father.   

The trial took place at the Redwood City Hall of Justice and took several twists and turns, including Landaeta abruptly stopping his testimony while on the witness stand. He also refused to appear during closing arguments last week. 

Family and friends of Karina Castro gathered outside the Hall of Justice after Landaeta was found guilty of her murder.  

"Karina was my oldest, my first. I was 16 when we had her. I never in my life thought I’d be doing something like this," Castro said. 

Landaeta faces 26 years to life in prison.

"My daughter is still gone. I don’t find a lot of satisfaction out of this, but I will take whatever I can get," said Castro. 

Landaeta’s defense attorney says he initially pushed for a not guilty plea by reason of insanity, but experts evaluating him didn’t believe he was insane at the time of the crime.  

"I think California needs to change the way it treats paranoid schizophrenics who have proven that they’ve had issues," said Robert Cummings, Landaeta's attorney.   

The trial isn’t over completely. The jury still has to decide on special circumstances in the case, like premeditation and the type of weapon used in the murder. 

The jury will meet again Tuesday morning.