Support our mission

YOKOHAMA, Japan — The USS Kitty Hawk airman accused of killing a Japanese woman should get life in prison, Prosecutor Toshimi Honda told a panel of Japanese judges Monday.

The death penalty “although requested by the victim’s family” is inappropriate for 21-year old U.S. Navy airman William Oliver Reese, Honda said.

“He is too young, has no criminal record in Japan and his intensions were indefinite,” Honda said.

Reese agreed that he deserved to be punished when he took the stand Monday in the second day of the robbery-murder trial in Yokohama District Court. Attorneys gave their closing arguments and a sentencing date was scheduled for June 2 at 11 a.m.

“To the family, I’m very sorry for my actions. To the people of Japan, I’m sorry for my actions,” Reese said. “To my friends, family and U.S. military, I’m sorry I let you down.”

Reese stands accused of the Jan. 3 robbery-murder of Yoshie Sato, a 56 year-old Yokosuka woman.

According to police and investigator reports, Reese approached Sato around 6 a.m. near Yokosuka Chuo station as Sato was on her way to work. He asked her for directions to nearby Yokosuka Naval Base, then grabbed Sato’s purse, Honda said. When she started yelling for help, Reese dragged Sato into a building entrance, threw her against a cement wall, beating her for 11 minutes, punching and stomping on her face and stomach. He took about $130 from her purse and left. Reese then stopped by a convenience store and returned to the base to work on the ship.

A neighbor found Sato and called for help. She died later that day in a local hospital of internal bleeding.

Sato’s younger brother Shuichi Sanada was the only person called to testify besides Reese. A taxi driver of nine years, Sanada didn’t believe Reese was lost so close to base, he said. He also “wanted to do the same to Reese” as Reese had done to his sister, he said.

“When I saw her, she looked like a completely different person. Her face was swollen and her nose was completely broken,” Sanada said. “I miss my sister every day and will never forget her.”

Three possible motives were given for the attack.

Honda drew upon Reese’s previous statement to investigators that he was “bored” with his Navy job and needed money. Reese planned to rob Sato and killed her in order to get the money.

Reese’s attorney, Midori Tanaka, put forth the explanation it was a robbery gone bad and Reese had no intention to kill Sato.

“He intended to rob her but she was more resistant and the violence escalated,” Tanaka said.

Reese, on the other hand, said he attacked Sato because he was drunk and angry. Sato angered him when she turned away from him after pointing him in the direction on the base.

He said the robbery was an afterthought after he missed striking Sato and hit her purse.

“I wanted her to help me,” Reese said. “I lost my temper. I let my emotions get the best of me.”

Reese said he doesn’t deserve to wear his Navy uniform and that is aware of the crime’s impact.

“Tensions are high between Japan and [the] U.S. because the trust factor is endangered,” Reese said. “I’m sorry for the stress I’ve caused. I know things are really strict on base now and I’m sorry for that.”

twitter Email

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up