A year after a random attack on a Guam street left three Japanese tourists dead and 11 injured, the families of the victims are still trying to pick up the pieces of their lives.
On Feb. 12, 2013, then-21-year-old Chad Ryan De Soto drove his car onto the sidewalk in the town of Tumon, running down passers-by before crashing into an ABC convenience store. Exiting his car, De Soto stabbed several tourists at random on the street of the shopping district. He has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity to charges of aggravated murder.
Michiko Yokota, 52, whose 51-year-old husband, Hitoshi, died two days after being hit by De Soto’s car, was among the 11 injured. Both of her legs were fractured. Now living in Itako, Ibaraki Prefecture, Yokota was released from the hospital at the end of January. She hopes to visit Guam soon to cope with her grief and thank the Japanese community there for their support.
Tadahito Hanyu, 52, from Namegata, Ibaraki Prefecture, the couple’s former high school classmate, said Yokota cannot walk without a cane and is still undergoing rehabilitation.
While in the hospital, she underwent six operations on her right leg and had artificial bone implanted. Even after her release, she has to visit a hospital in Chiba Prefecture twice a week for physical therapy. Her parents drive her to the hospital, which is 2½ hours by car from her home. For a while after coming back to Japan, she could barely stand. Because of the severity of her injuries, she could not be at the side of her dying husband or attend his cremation. She also had to give up her cherished plan to commemorate the first anniversary of his death in Guam.
Adding to her shock is the fact that victims of crimes abroad are ineligible for atonement money from the state. The central government has no provisions for paying such victims, nor offers any consultation services either.
In December, in response to a petition submitted by Hanyu and his group, the municipal government of Itako enacted an ordinance allowing victims of crimes overseas to apply for consolation money.
The ordinance entitles victims of such crimes, including those involved in the attack last year on Guam, to receive consolation money.
The central government has begun reviewing its support policy for crime victims to include overseas cases.
Yokota, who paid tribute to her deceased husband in a ritual Saturday, said she promised him to “do my best to enable other foreign crime victims to receive assistance.”
Meanwhile, in the city of Tochigi, about 30 family members gathered in mid-January to commemorate the deaths of two other victims — 81-year-old Kazuko Uehara and her granddaughter, Rie Sugiyama, who was 28 at that time. The two were visiting Guam to attend Sugiyama’s younger brother’s wedding ceremony.
“Although it has been a year (since the incident), my heart is still filled with grief,” said a 78-year-old relative who attended the memorial service. “I feel really sorry for the poor little girls Rie left behind.”