• Kyodo

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The Sendai District Court sentenced a 33-year-old man Monday to 18 years in prison for murdering a 16-year-old girl in 2002 and dumping her weighted-down corpse into Shiogama harbor, Miyagi Prefecture.

Presiding Judge Eiichi Homma called the crime Koji Sugawara, from Shiogama, was convicted of perpetrating “selfish and cruel.”

Sugawara’s attorneys claimed he is innocent and noted prosecutors had not established the date and cause of Manami Konno’s slaying, and had only circumstantial evidence linking their client to the victim.

But the judge concluded Sugawara killed Konno, a high school correspondence student from Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, with whom the accused had had money trouble and had no alibi.

Homma also said traces of Konno’s blood were found in a car Sugawara drove, and he possessed her mobile phone and sent a text message to her friend with it. The circumstantial evidence led him to find Sugawara guilty, he said.

The court said Sugawara killed Konno around July 25, 2002, possibly by strangling her, in or around the city of Sendai, and then dumped her body into the sea. Her corpse, weighted down with two concrete blocks, was found floating 30 meters offshore on Aug. 10, 2002.