National

PET SHOP OWNERS KILLED CUSTOMERS

Couple handed death sentence for poisoning four

Kyodo

The Urawa District Court on Wednesday sentenced a dog breeder and his former wife to death for fatally poisoning four people in a dispute over money in 1993.

Gen Sekine, 59, of Konan, Saitama Prefecture, was convicted of killing the four victims, destroying their bodies and dumping the remains. Sekine’s former wife, 44-year-old Hiroko Kazama, who owned a pet shop, was convicted for her role in three of the slayings. Presiding Judge Masaru Suda said he fully supports prosecutors’ accounts of the events and denounced the couple’s crimes as “extremely fiendish,” noting that the death penalty was inevitable. Prosecutors had demanded that both defendants be sentenced to hang.

Suda handed down the death sentence shortly after 4 p.m. — hours after he started reading the ruling in the morning.

According to the court and the indictments, the couple killed Akio Kawasaki, a 39-year-old company employee from Gyoda, Saitama Prefecture, in April 1993 by having the victim take a capsule filled with strychnine nitrate — a toxin used for the mercy killing of pets.

Kawasaki was having money problems with the couple over their dog-breeding plan.

In July the same year, the couple similarly killed two other people — gang boss Yasunobu Endo, 51, and his driver, Susumu Wakui, 21 — after Endo learned of Kawasaki’s murder and tried to blackmail Sekine.

Sekine and Kazama transported the bodies of the three victims to a dog-training ground in Gunma Prefecture, where they cut them up, burned them and scattered the remains in a hilly area and a river, the ruling said. An employee of the pet shop was given a three-year prison term in 1996 for helping the pair dispose of the bodies.

The following month, Sekine fatally poisoned Mitsue Sekiguchi, a 54-year-old housewife from Gyoda, with whom he was having problems over the sale of a dog, the court said.

All four victims were customers of the couple’s pet shop in Kumagaya, Gunma Prefecture.

In earlier court hearings on the case, Sekine admitted most of the charges prosecutors had presented in court, but pleaded to be spared the death penalty by insisting that “the death penalty is against the Constitution.”

Kazama pleaded not guilty to the murder of Kawasaki, claiming she had no motive to kill him and was never present at the scene of the crime.

On the other two victims for whose death she was held accountable, Kazama admitted she was “persuaded by Sekine into helping” him destroy their bodies, but “was never involved in the plotting or the act of killing.”

Double-killer to hang

The Tokyo District Court sentenced a former newspaper salesman to death Wednesday for murdering a 91-year-old woman and her daughter during a 1999 robbery attempt.

The court found Hiroki Fukawa, 35, guilty of stabbing Shin Yamada and her 65-year-old daughter, Hiro, to death in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward. He reportedly wanted to steal their money to pay off the club where his hostess girlfriend worked.

In supporting prosecutors’ demand for the death penalty, the court said Fukawa bears grave responsibility for “the loss of two precious lives.”

Describing Fukawa’s conduct as “persistent and cruel,” the court said it had no choice but to sentence him to death. According to the court, Fukawa visited the residence of the Yamada family, who were his clients, to borrow money in April 1999.

Fukawa wanted the money to convince his live-in girlfriend to quit her hostess job, it said.

After Shin refused to lend him money, Fukawa stabbed her and her daughter to death and then unsuccessfully attempted to find some cash to steal, the court said.

Handing down the punishment, presiding Judge Kiyohi Kimura said Fukawa’s crime came about because of his selfish motivation to make a good impression on his girlfriend and to monopolize her.

Saying Yamada had also swindled two other women out of 9.57 million yen in early 1999 to spend on his girlfriend, the judge said Fukawa apparently had no idea of the value of money and had an extraordinary attachment to her.

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