• Kyodo

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A man and woman were sentenced Monday to life in prison for killing a woman and severely wounding a man in 2002 during two separate robberies.

Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty for Ayako Harada, 25, and Kentaro Aki, 34, saying they killed an innocent person out of a desire to obtain spending money.

Presiding Judge Hiroaki Higuchi of the Wakayama District Court said the crimes were “extremely self-centered and cruel.”

However, at the same time he noted that Aki, who had never had any close friends, deepened his dependence on Harada, who used him as a source of money. Harada, for her part, approached police and told them everything about the crimes.

“Both defendants feel a deep responsibility for their acts,” the judge said in rejecting the death penalty.

According to the court, the two met through an Internet dating site and conspired to murder a 27-year-old Osaka woman who was an acquaintance of Harada’s.

In the early hours of July 7, 2002, Harada got the woman to come to the city of Wakayama, after which Aki strangled her as they went for a drive, and stole 35,000 yen. They later burned her corpse in a mountainous area near Katsuragi, Wakayama Prefecture.

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