NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Prosecutors on Friday demanded life imprisonment for a former U.S. civilian base worker charged with raping and killing a 20-year-old woman in Okinawa in April last year.
Claiming Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, committed “extremely heinous and selfish crimes,” prosecutors sought a life term. Shinzato denied intent to murder the victim.
The Naha District Court will hand down its ruling on Dec. 1.
The case sparked public anger and strengthened anti-U.S. base sentiment in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities and has seen a series of crimes committed by U.S. servicemen or military-linked personnel.
According to the indictment, Shinzato attacked the woman for the purpose of raping her on a road in Uruma, in central Okinawa, at around 10 p.m. on April 28, 2016. He stabbed her in the neck with a knife and struck her on the head with a bar so she would not resist, killing her as a result.
The remains of the woman, who was taking a walk at the time of the crime, were found on May 19 that year in a wooded area in the village of Onna, north of Uruma. They were found based on information in a statement Shinzato gave to investigators.
Shinzato has admitted to the charges of rape resulting in death and abandoning the victim’s body.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors maintained that Shinzato “stabbed the victim in the neck with a knife three or four times and struck her with a bar on the back of her head between five and 10 times.” The said this meant “he had intent to kill the victim.”
They also said Shinzato committed “grave” crimes as he “assaulted an innocent woman like a phantom killer and took her future.”
“No sincere apologies have been offered to the victim’s family and he has shown no remorse,” the prosecutors said, adding that he had planned for the crime by preparing a knife and a suitcase to transport the body.
They said they had thought about seeking a death sentence but “reluctantly gave up the idea in light of striking a balance (of punishment) with other similar criminal cases.”
Shinzato’s defense counsel repeated the denial of murderous intent and said there is a possibility the woman died as a result of falling and hitting her head on the ground.
Shinzato, in his last statement during the trial, said he “did not intend to cause such a result.” The defense counsel also requested that the court “forget about (local residents’) frustration with U.S. bases” when deciding on the ruling.
Shinzato was working at an internet company within the premises of the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa at the time of the incident, after serving as a U.S. Marine between 2007 and 2014, according to his lawyers and the U.S. Defense Department.
While the prefecture has been following the trial of Shinzato, which began last week, a 21-year-old U.S. Marine was arrested on Sunday following an alleged drunken-driving accident that killed a local resident in Naha.
The following day, the U.S. Forces in Japan prohibited all U.S. service members from drinking alcohol on or off base.