Defence for killer of Japanese student says he should be jailed for minimum 10 years

A memorial for Japanese student Natsumi Kogawa outside a heritage mansion in downtown Vancouver in 2016.


A man found guilty by a jury of second-degree murder of a Japanese student in Vancouver should be jailed for the minimum 10 years for the crime, his lawyer argued in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Friday.

The prosecutor is asking the court to sentence William Schneider to 17 years for the killing of Natsumi Kogawa before he can apply for parole.

After deliberating for several days, a jury last month found Schneider, 50, guilty of the September 2016 second-degree murder of Kogawa, 30.

Second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with a period of parole ineligibility of between 10 and 25 years.

Sentencing is to be delivered on Friday afternoon.

Defence lawyer Joe Doyle said Schneider’s sentence should be mitigated by his expression of remorse. And he noted that Schneider did reveal where the body could be found.

And Doyle argued that although Schneider had a lengthy record of prior offences, he hasn’t been convicted of a violent offence since the 1990s.

“It’s a long time ago,” he said. “He didn’t cease committing offences but he did cease committing violent offences and that’s not always the case.”

Schneider read a brief apology in court to Kogawa’s mother, Emiko Kogawa. She had attended the trial but has since returned to Japan.

Earlier this week her victim impact statement was read into court, and in it she said since the murder she has not been able to feel any joy in life, keeps thinking about her daughter and cries every day.

“I am horrified that her life has been ended by such an unfortunate event.”

The mother said she was dismayed she had not heard an apology from Schneider or his family. “I cannot forgive them for their disrespectful behaviour.”

Schneider said in court “Your words bit right through me” and that he was sorry for her pain.

In his sentencing submissions, Crown counsel Geordie Proulx argued the circumstances were so aggravated and the risk of future dangerousness of Schneider so great, that the offender should get 17 years with no parole.

Proulx said there was a high degree of moral culpability because Schneider had attacked a defenceless and small woman.

“There must have been a period of minutes when Natsumi Kogawa was being put to death.”

Schneider met Kogawa, who came to Canada from Japan to study English, in August 2016, soon after he had returned from an unsuccessful trip to Japan to try to persuade his wife to return to Canada with their teenage son.

He had become enamoured with Kogawa and excited by the prospect of having a relationship with her, Proulx told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow.

Prior to the murder, they had met on two occasions, one of them apparently on a hike on the North Shore, the prosecutor said.

On the date of the offence, they met on a mall on West Hastings Street, with Kogawa purchasing several items, including a bottle of vodka.

CCTV video footage showed the two interacting amicably as they walked westbound on West Hastings towards Stanley Park.

Proulx said the evidence provided by the accused’s brother showed the purpose for the meeting was to go to Stanley Park to engage in consensual sex in a tent.

Kogawa had arranged to meet a friend later in the day to get a job application for a Japanese restaurant, so they set up the tent in a location other than Stanley Park, said Proulx.

The Crown’s theory is Schneider smothered Kogawa to death by placing his hand over her mouth and nose.

Later, Schneider acquired a large suitcase, placed the body in the suitcase and left the body on a property in the West End.

Proulx said the parole ineligibility should be high because of the future risk posed by Schneider, who has 48 prior criminal convictions.

Many of the convictions were for property offences, but there were a number of violent crimes, including an incident in which he choked a woman in her apartment in Edmonton, putting his hand over her mouth and nose.

He was also convicted of several assaults on police officers and the armed robberies of several Japanese business establishments.

Prior to final submissions, Schneider pleaded guilty to interfering with the victim’s dead body. Proulx argued that he should get four years in jail for that offence, to run concurrently with the murder sentence.


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