• Kyodo

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The Niigata District Court sentenced an actor-turned local politician in the city of Shirone, Niigata Prefecture, to life in prison Tuesday for robbing and murdering a moneylender.

Kazutaka Nishikawa, the 33-year-old former member of the municipal assembly of Shirone, who gained fame as a child actor in the 1970s, was found guilty of strangling Yukio Sato, 56, in Sato’s office in Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture, on Nov. 30, and stealing 5.1 million yen of the victim’s money.

The court also sentenced Yuichi Kawahara, 31, a manager of a mah-jongg parlor, to 15 years in prison for abetting the slaying in conspiracy with Nishikawa.

Presiding Judge Isoo Sakaki ruled that Nishikawa and Kawahara had strangled Sato with an electric cord, dumped the victim’s body in a nearby forest and then stolen the money.

Kawahara was arrested soon after the murder, but Nishikawa fled abroad and was detained in Bangkok in late December.

Nishikawa, who as a child actor played the character Daigoro in the popular TV samurai drama series “Kozure-Okami” in the 1970s, was elected to the Shirone Municipal Assembly in April 1995 and was still a member at the time of the killing. He did not seek a second term in this year’s election.

Public prosecutors had asked for life imprisonment for both defendants.

During the trial, defense counsel requested leniency for Nishikawa, maintaining that he lacked normal social common sense because he was spoiled in his youth by the entertainment world.

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