William Schneider, on trial for murder of a Japanese student two years ago, lived in a homeless shelter at the time, was broke and returned to his doctor weekly for anti-anxiety pills.
Schneider, 51, is accused of second-degree murder of Natsumi Kogawa, 30, and details revealed on the second day of the trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday before a packed public gallery painted a bleak picture of the middle-aged man’s life at the time.
Kogawa’s decomposed body was found in a suitcase in the fall of 2016 hidden on a West End property in Vancouver, where Schneider told his brother it would be, about two weeks after friends reported her missing.
Schneider has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and to interfering with human remains.
At trial Tuesday, Vancouver Police Const. Beatrice Chow described taking photographs of the badly decomposed body.
She said Kogawa’s naked body was in a fetal position in the wheeled suitcase, head down, with her arms across her chest, and that twigs, leaves and moss were stuck to her skin.
Kogawa was last heard from on Sept. 8, 2016, the day she was seen on CCTV video buying vodka and chips and walking toward Stanley Park with Schneider, Crown counsel Geordie Proulx told the judge and a jury.
Court heard Schneider was carrying a tent and he had told his brother they had planned to go to Stanley Park to have sex in the tent, but they never made it. They instead had some drinks and took drugs before she left for another engagement.
Kogawa’s autopsy showed she had anti-anxiety pills in her system — Lorazepam, that had been prescribed not to her but to Schneider that summer — said Proulx.
Court has heard Kogawa came to Canada in May 2016 on a student visa, found a place to live in Burnaby and took English classes until July 22, 2016.
A statement of facts agreed to by Crown and the defence lawyer read into court on Tuesday revealed some details about Schneider’s life around the same time.
On June 10, 2016, Schneider had flown to Japan to an airport near Osaka. Court heard that his wife lives in Japan.
Schneider returned to Vancouver on July 25, 2016, the Monday after Kogawa’s final English class.
That same day, Schneider visited a doctor and received a prescription for Lorazepam, Proulx told court.
The prescription was repeated three days later, then once a week during the month of August. He received two more prescriptions in early September, but the strength had been cut to half-a-milligram and the number of pills cut in half.
Less than a week after returning from Japan, Schneider moved into the Catholic Charities Men’s Hostel in downtown Vancouver, where he lived for the next six weeks.
Court hasn’t heard how the two met, but hostel staff are expected to testify he told them about meeting a woman and that they had gone hiking and planned to go camping.
While homeless, Schneider’s banking records showed he was broke for most of September.
There were zero transactions on that account until Sept. 21, when a government cheque for $793.42 was deposited.
“Welfare Wednesday” cheques are typically deposited at midnight. By 6:30 a.m. that day, Schneider was on a Greyhound bus to Kelowna, where his brother lived.
A week after that, on Sept. 28, 2016, he was arrested and charged with Kogawa’s murder after being found, drunk, before midnight in an area frequented by homeless people in Polson Park in Vernon, court heard.