REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KRON) — A man who allegedly beheaded the mother of his baby with a samurai sword in San Carlos appeared in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing.

Jose Landaeta is charged with murdering his ex-girlfriend, 27-year-old Karina Castro, in front of several witnesses outside her home on Laurel Street on the morning of September 8, 2022.

Landaeta, 33, and Castro got into a heated verbal argument over custody of their 1-year-old baby moments before the homicide, prosecutors said. Neighbors who saw the gruesome scene described it as a “beheading.”

Karina Castro
Karina Castro (Images via Facebook)

“The defendant attacked the victim with a samurai sword, slashing in numerous times causing the victim’s head to be almost severed. He put the bloody sword in his car, which was parked two blocks away. Defendant has a history of mental health problems,” prosecutors wrote.

Landaeta’s preliminary hearing was given a green light to begin on Wednesday in the San Mateo County Hall of Justice after he received a mental competency evaluation. The court found the Hayward man mentally fit to stand trial based on a competency report completed in January by two court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Jeffrey Gould and Dr. Stephanie Young.

Prosecutors presented key pieces of evidence at Wednesday’s hearing, including Instagram messages in which Landaeta expressed anger at Castro, and implied he intended to hurt her.

Castro’s family broke down in tears in the courtroom gallery as prosecutors described the gruesome way in which she died. Landaeta’s defense attorneys said he may have acted in self-defense.

The judge ultimately ruled that the District Attorney’s Office has enough evidence for Landaeta to go on trial for murder.

Landaeta’s criminal records show Castro was the victim of domestic violence while they were dating in 2021. At the time of her death, she had a court-ordered criminal harassment protective order against Landaeta.

Castro’s father, Martin Castro, previously told KRON4 that Landaeta gave him a bad feeling ever since the day he met him. “I didn’t like him from day one. He’s been nothing but trouble since the day he came into her life. When she got pregnant by him, my heart dropped,” he said. “My heart is empty without her. She was my best friend.”

Castro is survived by her two young daughters, ages one and seven.

Landaeta has been locked in a San Mateo County Jail without bail since he was arrested the day of the homicide.

Martin Castro said Landaeta deserves to be sentenced to death. “I don’t feel he should continue breathing. I think the death penalty would be perfect for him,” he said.