Killer to hang for strangling woman while on parole

A 53-year-old Tokyo man was sentenced Monday to death for strangling a female acquaintance in 1999.

The Tokyo High Court overturned a June 2001 lower court sentence of life in prison for Kenji Yokota, a factory worker from Adachi Ward. He was found guilty of murdering Akiko Saga, 21, at his home on the night of Jan. 9, 1999, following a quarrel.

Yokota, who was out on parole from a previous conviction, cut Saga’s body into pieces with a cooking knife and dumped her remains in a river in Adachi and in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture.

“The defendant overreacted to the victim’s behavior during the argument and killed her. It was a crime attributable to the defendant’s ruthless and brutal character,” presiding Judge Shogo Takahashi said, dismissing the district court’s ruling that the crime was accidental.

“Although there was only one victim, the death penalty is unavoidable because it was a felony the defendant committed while out on parole,” Takahashi said in handing down the sentence demanded by prosecutors.

Yokota immediately filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.

His lawyer had claimed the life term was too heavy for what he called Yokota’s “excessive self-defense,” in light of the victim having brandished a knife, but the presiding judge refused to consider the claim.

Yokota was released on parole in January 1998 after serving a prison term for committing robbery and murder in Chiba Prefecture in January 1978.