• Kyodo

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A Saitama Prefecture chicken farm employee was sentenced to death Tuesday for a 1989 arson and murder for insurance.

The Saitama District Court handed down the death sentence to Daizo Fukushima, 78, as demanded by prosecutors.

He faced murder, arson and other charges for conspiring with Shunichi Nagai, owner of the farm, to set fire to the farm’s dormitory in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, with gasoline on the night of April 5, 1989.

Hiroko Takahara, 48, who lived in the dormitory with her husband, Akira, a 63-year-old employee of the farm, was killed in the fire. The husband suffered severe burns.

After the fire, Nagai received about 27 million yen in benefits from a life insurance policy that he had taken out on the Takaharas. He gave Fukushima 3 million yen as a reward, the court ruled.

Nagai, 63, was sentenced to life in prison May 12 and has since appealed the ruling.

The court handed the death sentence to Fukushima in light of the fact he was on probation from prison at the time of the 1989 incident. He was given a 20-year prison term in 1970 for murder, arson and other charges.

Fukushima initially admitted to setting the fire during police questioning, but he pleaded innocent in court, claiming he had nothing to do with the crime.

However, presiding Judge Takuichi Kawakami rejected the claim, citing testimony by Akira Takahara that he saw Fukushima spray gasoline in a dormitory room.

Fukushima’s confession to investigators is “consistent with the results of the police inspection of the fire scene and other objective circumstances,” the judge said. Kawakami brushed aside Fukushima’s courtroom denial as “unnatural and untrustworthy.”

“It was a cruel and outrageous crime that was thoroughly planned beforehand,” the judge said. “The defendant has not the slightest bit of remorse.”

Fukushima plans to appeal the ruling, his counsel said.

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