National / Crime & Legal

Former U.S. base worker gets life in prison for murder of Okinawa woman

Kyodo

A court sentenced a former U.S. base worker to life in prison on Friday for the April 2016 rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman in Okinawa.

The Naha District Court handed down the sentence to Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, in line with the prosecutors’ demand.

“There is no space for extenuating circumstances for such a selfish motive and the criminal responsibility is grave,” the court said.

Shinzato admitted to the charges of rape resulting in death and abandoning the victim’s body, but he denied intent to murder.

Shinzato said in his last statement during the trial, “I did not intend to cause such a result.”

Prosecutors said 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,” adding that this meant “he had intent to kill the victim.”

The case sparked public anger and further strengthened anti-base sentiment in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan and must deal with any crimes committed by their servicemen or related personnel.

According to the indictment, Shinzato attacked the woman for the purpose of raping her on a road in Uruma 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, resulting in her death.

The remains of the woman, who was taking a walk at the time, 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 Shinzato’s statement.

He was a civilian working for an internet company on the premises of Kadena Air Base at the time, after serving as a U.S. Marine from 2007 to 2014, according to his lawyers and the U.S. Defense Department.