Murders for insurance land nurse on death row

Kyodo

A former nurse was sentenced to death Friday for participating with three other women in the murders of two of their husbands in 1998 and 1999 for insurance money.

The Fukuoka District Court handed down the death sentence on Junko Yoshida, 45, ending the series of trials of the four women, who had been classmates in nursing school.

Miyuki Tsutsumi, 44, was sentenced in August to life imprisonment, and Hitomi Ishii, 46, to 17 years. Kazuko Ikegami, 43, died of cancer on Sept. 1 before being sentenced.

Yoshida’s lawyers said she would file an appeal.

Presiding Judge Toshiyuki Tani said Yoshida was the leader in the murders.

“(Yoshida) did not care about other people’s lives in her greed for money, and her acts leave no room for leniency,” the judge said.

Yoshida, Tsutsumi and Ikegami killed Ikegami’s 39-year-old husband in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, by injecting air into his bloodstream in January 1998. His death paid them 35 million yen in insurance money, according to the court.

In March 1999, the four women murdered Ishii’s 44-year-old husband in Okawa, also in Fukuoka Prefecture, by injecting alcohol into his body through a medical tube, and received 33 million yen from the insurance company, the court said.

“She planned it carefully like a medical procedure and devoured people’s lives just for fun,” the prosecutors’ statement said.

Yoshida’s defense team, however, claimed that she was not the mastermind behind the murders and that she suffered from a personality disorder.

But Judge Tani dismissed this argument. “Yoshida believed the murders would not be discovered if they used their medical knowledge and had Tsutsumi, a veteran nurse, devise ways to make it appear as if the victims had died of natural causes,” the judge said.

The four women were arrested in April 2002 after Ishii, who allegedly had been threatened by Yoshida and the others, confessed to her husband’s murder to police.