HIROSHIMA – A Peruvian man was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for sexually assaulting and killing a 7-year-old girl in the city of Hiroshima last November in a case that led to a clampdown on immigration rules.
The crime by Jose Manuel Torres Yagi, 34, was “vicious and coldblooded” and he had intended to molest and kill Airi Kinoshita, presiding Judge Hiromichi Iwakura of the Hiroshima District Court said, rejecting the defense argument that he bore no intent.
Prosecutors had demanded he be put to death.
Iwakura stopped short of that punishment, saying, “The crime was not premeditated and the number of victims remains at one. We cannot say it is impossible for the defendant to be rehabilitated.”
But the judge added an unusual caution: “The defendant must pay throughout his life, and the court expects his parole to be decided with caution.”
Observers said the court’s decision not to give the death sentence, but to ask that parole be examined carefully, may add fuel to the debate about whether life imprisonment without parole should replace the death sentence.
Yagi, who entered Japan on a fake passport, strangled Kinoshita on Nov. 22 either in or near his apartment in Aki Ward. He left her body in a cardboard box in a vacant lot near his home, the court found.
Prosecutors said Yagi, who earlier reports also identified as Yake, should hang to show the court takes a strong stand against crimes against kids.
Yagi’s lawyers sought leniency, saying he had not intended to kill the girl and had apologized for her death.
His lawyers also had asked the court to give the Peruvian a psychiatric examination because he had said he “heard voices of the devil,” but the request was turned down.
Yagi’s trial was quicker than has been the norm. It began May 15 and was sped up by using new pretrial procedures that narrow down the points of argument.
Kenichi Kinoshita, 39, the victim’s father, told reporters prior to the sentencing “the culprit effectively killed her twice” by sexually assaulting her and then strangling her, and he deserved the death penalty.
After the ruling, he expressed strong disappointment.
“I have been working hard for revenge all this time, but the death sentence was not given to him,” he told reporters. “It’s like a defeat in the court battle. I feel so frustrated that I couldn’t have any vengeance.”