Bay Area man sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for beheading ex-girlfriend with samurai sword

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Tuesday, January 30, 2024
Bay Area man sentenced for beheading ex-girlfriend with samurai sword
Rafa Solano, the man who used a samurai sword to behead his ex-girlfriend Karina Castro in San Carlos was sentenced to prison for at least 25 years.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- A Bay Area man who used a samurai sword to behead the mother of his young daughter has been sentenced to prison for at least 25 years.

His sentencing comes two months after he was found guilty of first-degree murder.

The suspect known as Rafa Solano was sentenced by a judge on Tuesday to 25 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole. This is the sentence for first-degree murder in California.

Before his sentence, he listened to a number of victim impact statements from the family of 27-year-old Karina Castro, Solano's ex-girlfriend, who was killed and beheaded with a sword in the middle of a street in San Carlos back in 2022.

Castro's family and friends described the crime as the "worst kind of evil" and believed Castro was protecting her two young daughters at the time.

Judge Lisa Novak said this is by far the most difficult trial she's ever presided over because of the true horror of the crime committed.

She also said this "incredible act of violence" is not in any way a byproduct of mental illness.

EXCLUSIVE: Contentious Snapchat messages may shed light on days leading up to San Carlos beheading

In the day before the murder, Snapchat messages between the young woman and suspect got very contentious, with her threatening to tell the world about a rape conviction involving a minor.

After reading his sentence of 25 years to life, Novak said the "sentence imposed just does not feel sufficient for the crime."

"It's exactly how I felt, to a T, it's not enough, I don't understand, California is insane as far as that goes, I don't understand it," Martin Castro, Karina's father said. "If he used a gun, he can get life without parole, whatever, now he's not eligible, because he cut her head off in the street? How does that work?"

Karina's father says sitting through the trial and listening to every gruesome detail has been the hardest thing he's ever had to go through in his life.

"I don't get her back, no matter what," Danielle Gannon, Karina's grandmother said. "I mean it's nice knowing that at least he won't get out in my lifetime, but it's sick that he gets to get out at all if he does."

Gannon gave a victim impact statement to the judge explaining how she wanted the judge to "punish this monster" to the fullest extent that the law allows.

"Nothing they could have said in there was going to make anything any better, she's still gone, no court date is going to bring her back," Mya Castro, Karina's sister said.

Despite the sentence, Judge Novak said this shouldn't "lessen the significance" of the community understanding that justice is being served.

"Just because he's going to prison, he still gets visitation, he still gets three meals, he still can start his life and go up for parole in 20 plus years and we're stuck, we have nightmares every day, our life has totally been ripped apart," Monica Camacho, one of Karina's best friends said.

Now, the family is focused on protecting Karina's two young daughters.