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OSAKA — The Osaka District Court on Thursday sentenced a 58-year-old former driver to death for murdering a man and his wife in 1997 and stealing cash from their home in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture.

Handing down the ruling to Hisashi Eto, presiding Judge Tetsushi Yukawa said, “The crime was vicious and the defendant has no modicum of conscience as a human being.”

According to the ruling, Eto conspired with two others to kill Motoo Takagi, a 67-year-old company owner, and his wife, Hiroko, 65, to obtain their real estate title deeds.

The three smothered the couple, wrapping their faces with adhesive tape and tying their hands and feet with electrical cord before stealing 150,000 yen in cash. Eto then took the bodies of the two to a fallow field in the city of Kawachinagano, Osaka Prefecture, and abandoned them.

Eto’s lawyers argued that the incident was unplanned and that he was in a state of diminished responsibility at the time of the incident.

Yukawa ruled that Eto intended to kill the couple and dismissed the suggestion of diminished responsibility based on the results of a psychiatric examination.

Eto appealed to the high court later on Thursday, his lawyers said.

The judge gave a 10-year prison term to Hiroshi Ohara, a 61-year-old former security guard who was one of the two accomplices, in connection with the murder.

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