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

TOKYO • A former United States marine based in Japan's south-western island of Okinawa was yesterday sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of a local woman.

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.

He confessed to the rape of 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro on April 28 last year, as well as the subsequent abandonment of her body, but fought the murder charge, claiming he did not intend to kill.

Her body was found only on May 19 last year.

District Judge Toshihiro Shibata, in finding Shinzato guilty of murder, said yesterday: "The immeasurable viciousness of the accused led to the senseless killing of a young woman, who only just came of age."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference yesterday: "This was an extremely cruel and evil incident that (took) the life of a young woman with a future ahead of her.

"There should be no more incidents or accidents by the US military."

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 US military bases.

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

Last month, US marine Nicholas James-McLean, 21, was arrested after his truck collided with a vehicle driven by 61-year-old Hidemasa Taira. James-McLean's blood alcohol content was over the legal limit.

These crimes, as well as safety concerns after a series of aircraft emergency landings and crashes, have intensified opposition to US military presence on Okinawa, which hosts almost 75 per cent of the land allotted for US bases in Japan and where about 26,000 US personnel are stationed.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2017, with the headline 'Ex-US marine jailed for life for rape, murder of Okinawan'. Print Edition | Subscribe