Ex-US marine jailed for life for rape, murder of Okinawan

Dec 03, 2017, 00:59
Ex-US marine jailed for life for rape, murder of Okinawan

A Japanese court sentenced a former USA military base worker to life in prison on Friday for the rape and murder of a woman on the southern island of Okinawa, public broadcaster NHK reported.

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

According to the indictment, Shinzato clubbed the woman in the back of her head while she was walking in Uruma on the night of April 28, 2016.

Kenneth Shinzato, 33, who had served as a marine from 2007 to 2014, was a civilian worker at the US Air Force's Kadena Air Base at the time of the crime. The 20-year-old woman was found in the forest in May, three weeks after she disappeared while taking a walk.

A panel in Naha District Court handed down the sentence to Shinzato, with Judge Toshihiro Shibata saying there was no room for leniency.

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

The case also sparked outrage among government officials, who raised the case during a visit by then-President Barack Obama previous year for a Group of 7 summit meeting.

A spate of crimes committed by USA servicemen against local citizens has worsened the tension.

Half of about 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan are on Okinawa.

Last month, U.S. marine Nicholas James-McLean, 21, was arrested after his truck collided with a vehicle driven by 61-year-old Hidemasa Taira.

Shinzato, born Kenneth Gadson but often referred to by his wife's name, was a U.S. Marine stationed in Japan before becoming a civilian contractor for the massive American military base there. James-McLean's blood alcohol content was over the legal limit.

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