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Death penalty sought for alleged ‘black widow’ serial killer

Kyodo

Prosecutors on Tuesday sought the death penalty for a 70-year-old woman, dubbed the “black widow,” charged with the murders of her husband and two common-law partners and the attempted murder of an acquaintance between 2007 and 2013.

Describing Chisako Kakehi’s alleged crimes as “heinous and serious incidents that are rarely seen,” the prosecutors said in their closing arguments at the Kyoto District Court that the victims — all elderly men — were given drinks laced with cyanide by Kakehi. She was heavily indebted and had been planning to inherit their assets.

The court is scheduled to hand down a ruling on Nov. 7, with the defense making its closing statements on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Kakehi is mentally competent and can be held responsible for her crimes, which “were premeditated.” Her “cognitive function has not significantly deteriorated as shown in her psychiatric evaluation,” and she had no mental disorders at the time of the crimes, they said.

Kakehi denied the charges and pleaded not guilty. Her defense argued that she cannot be held responsible or stand trial due to the onset of dementia. They cited her incoherent statements which they said even led to her admission at one point during proceedings to committing murder.

According to prosecutors, Kakehi murdered her 75-year-old husband Isao as well as common-law partners Masanori Honda, 71, and Minoru Hioki, 75, and tried to kill her acquaintance Toshiaki Suehiro, 79, by poisoning them with cyanide.

In the trial held under the country’s lay judge system, which involves citizen judges, the prosecutors built their case against Kakehi based on circumstantial evidence amid a dearth of physical evidence.

Kakehi was first arrested in November 2014 and indicted the following month on a charge of killing Isao, who died at the couple’s home in Muko, Kyoto Prefecture, in December 2013. They married the previous month. She was later indicted in connection with the deaths of the two other men.

Kakehi, a native of Fukuoka Prefecture, married first at the age of 24 and started her own fabric printing factory in Osaka Prefecture with her first husband. But following his death in around 1994, the factory went bankrupt and her house was put up for auction, forcing her to ask neighbors for a loan.

She later registered with a matchmaking service, specifically asking to meet wealthy men with an annual income of more than ¥10 million.

She was romantically involved with or associated with more than 10 men, enabling her to inherit an estimated ¥1 billion ($8.8 million) but later fell into debt following her attempts to speculate in stocks and futures trading.