Sentence expected Friday in Yokosuka killing
June 1, 2006
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The USS Kitty Hawk sailor on trial for the robbery-murder of a Yokosuka woman is to be sentenced Friday by three judges in a Yokohama courtroom.
Prosecutor Toshimi Honda sought a sentence of life imprisonment for 21-year-old Airman William Oliver Reese but the victim’s family asked for the death penalty during closing arguments and statements last month.
The U.S. Navy handed Reese over to Japanese custody less than a week after the Jan. 3 robbery-killing of Yoshie Sato, a 56-year-old Yokosuka woman.
According to police and investigator reports, Reese approached Sato on her way to work. He asked her for directions to nearby Yokosuka Naval Base, then grabbed her purse. When she started yelling for help, Reese dragged Sato into a building entrance, threw her against a cement wall, and beat her for 11 minutes, punching and stomping on her face and stomach. He took 15,000 yen, about $130, from her purse and left.
Sato died later that day at a local hospital.
Reese went to a convenience store and returned to the base to work on the ship. Honda said he spent the bloodstained bills at Yokosuka’s bar and on sex shows later that evening.
If sentenced Friday, Reese’s trial will have lasted three non-consecutive days. He admitted guilt the first day, although his explanation of his motive diverged from his attorney’s during the second day of the trial.
Reese’s attorney, Midori Tanaka, said it was a robbery gone bad and Reese had no intention of killing Sato. Reese said the murder was a result of him being drunk and angry that Sato wouldn’t help him find his way back to base. Robbery was an afterthought, he said.
“I wanted her to help me,” Reese said. “I lost my temper. I let my emotions get the best of me.”
Only one other person — Sato’s younger brother, Shuichi Sanada — testified on the stand. He asked the judges to sentence Reese to death for what the sailor had done to his sister.
“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.”
The court also saw security-camera footage of the attack. Although the attack was out of plain sight, screams and the word “Money!” — shouted in English — were audible.
Presiding Judges Masazo Ogura, Takashi Tawada and Taro Kajiyama were to announce the sentence at 11 a.m. in the Yokohama District Court. Capital punishment is the maximum penalty for murder on the occasion of robbery.