HAGATNA, Guam (AFP) - A Guam man was found guilty Monday of killing three Japanese tourists and injuring 11 more during a frenzied knife attack in the Pacific island nation last year.
Chad Ryan De Soto had pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder and 11 of attempted murder by reason of insanity, but a jury convicted him after a seven-week trial that included two weeks of deliberations.
Officials said they would seek the maximum penalty when De Soto is sentenced on September 25, meaning the 22-year old potentially faces 14 life sentences without the prospect of parole.
He has never provided an explanation for the night attack on February 12, 2013, when he ploughed his car into people in the tourist district of Tumon, then leapt from the vehicle and attacked bystanders at random with a knife in each hand.
All of the victims were Japanese, including an eight-month-old baby and three-year-old toddler who both survived.
The toddler's mother Rie Sugiyama, 29, died as she desperately tried to shield her daughter from the knifeman. Another relative, 81-year-old Kazuko Uehara, also died. They had been in Guam for a family wedding.
Hitoshi Yokota, 51, died from injuries sustained when De Soto's car crashed into him.
Guam Attorney General Lenny Rapadas thanked the jury for their "thoughtful and careful deliberations" after they sat through weeks of harrowing evidence detailing the carnage caused by De Soto.
Rapadas said the jury saw through "the act that the defendant was trying to sell them".
"They heard how manipulative he was, as he apparently fooled his girlfriend, but he could not fool them," he said.
Chief Deputy Attorney General Phil Tydingco praised witnesses who relived the horror of the night in the court room, adding: "I hope this verdict will bring some closure to their loss." "It was a good day for Guam, for Guam people, especially for victims and their families." De Soto showed no emotion when judge Anita Sukola read out the jury verdict, although his mother Rae De Soto and girlfriend Reanne Acasio were both in tears.
More than 100 witnesses testified during the trial. Victims of the attack are expected to address the court at his sentencing hearing.
The deadly incident shocked Guam, a nation of about 180,000 people, known as an idyllic tropical destination.
Tourism is a key industry for the territory which is popular with the Japanese who make up about 80 percent of visitors each year.