US, Japan agree to compensate family of slain Okinawa office worker
By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND AYA ICHIHASHI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 3, 2018
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The U.S. and Japanese governments have agreed to pay an undisclosed sum of money to the family of an Okinawa woman who was murdered by a U.S. base worker in 2016.
The deal was officially struck last Friday during a meeting at Japan’s Ministry of Defense in Tokyo between Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and his American counterpart, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
The U.S. agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of a court-ordered settlement levied against convicted murderer Kenneth Franklin Gadson, 34, with the Japanese government agreeing to pay the rest.
Gadson, who worked at a Kadena Air Base cable and internet provider after leaving the Marine Corps, was found guilty on Dec. 1 in Naha District Court of murder, rape resulting in death and the illegal disposal of a body in the April 28, 2016, slaying of Uruma office worker Rina Shimabukuro. The vicious killing rocked Japan and forced then-President Barack Obama to apologize during his historic visit to Hiroshima in May 2016 after a strong rebuke from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Under the Status of Forces Agreement that presides over U.S. forces in Japan, crime victims can request compensation from the U.S. government if the perpetrators are U.S. military, DOD civilians or their families and are unable to pay court-assessed damages.
In January, Shimabukuro’s family was awarded an undisclosed amount of money from the courts through a program that compensates victims. Through their attorney, they claimed they had been awarded nearly what they had requested, though that amount was never revealed.
It was then determined that Gadson — who is serving life in prison — did not have the means to pay.
The claim was then sent to the Japanese government who assessed and filed a report with U.S. authorities. U.S. officials were then tasked with deciding whether or not to make a payment and for how much.
Japanese officials had said that they would cover the difference between what the U.S. agreed to pay and the settlement amount.
Initially, the U.S. government declined to foot the bill because Gadson worked for a private company that had a contract with Kadena Air Base and was not directly employed by U.S. forces at the time of the murder, a Ministry of Defense spokesman said Tuesday. However, they “made an exception” voluntarily in the case due to the “humanitarian standpoint for what happened to the bereaved family,” the spokesman said.
A U.S. Forces Japan spokesman referred Stars and Stripes to Mattis’ office, but they did not respond to requests seeking comment. An attorney for Shimabukuro’s family also declined to comment Tuesday.
The Japanese government plans to use the Special Action Committee on Facilities and Areas in Okinawa Compensation Fund to pay their portion of the judgement.
“To protect the bereaved family’s privacy, we cannot make comments on the amount nor when it will be paid,” the ministry spokesman said.
Shimabukuro disappeared after going out for a walk on the night of April 28, 2016. Gadson became a suspect after police spotted his vehicle on security camera footage taken from where she went missing. Police said he admitted to strangling Shimabukuro and led them to her body.
Gadson has filed an appeal with the Fukuoka High Court in Naha saying he did not intend to kill the victim; however, he did not appeal the financial settlement. He is due back in court July 24.