Okinawa rape and murder: U.S. military base worker Shinzato jailed in Japan


A Japanese court on Friday convicted a USA military contractor of murder and rape charges in the death of an Okinawa woman and sentenced him to life in prison.

The Naha District Court also found Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, a former Marine, guilty of abandoning the body of Rina Shimabukuro, 20.

Okinawa is home to the largest Marine base outside the U.S. Shinzato worked at Kadena Base, where more than 20,000 U.S. service members and their families, as well as Japanese civilians live and work.

Prosecutors said he had repeatedly hit his victim on the head and stabbed her in the neck during the attack.

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

The crime by Shinzato - who uses his former Japanese wife's surname instead of Gadson, his surname - outraged residents who have resented the presence of United States military bases.

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The court on Friday handed down the life imprisonment sentence as requested by the prosecutors, according to public broadcaster NHK and the Asahi Shimbun daily.

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

Friday's sentence capped the end of a public trial that enraged many on the island of Okinawa, where some 47,000 USA troops are stationed. Opponents want the air station completely removed from the island.

The proposal was developed after a military aircraft accident near the current base and the 1995 rape of a girl by three American servicemen, but has made little progress due to protests.

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.

The southern Japanese island of Okinawa hosts about 25,000 U.S. troops. The U.S. military responded by imposing a drinking ban for personnel in Japan on or off base.