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Ex-U.S. base worker to deny murderous intent in killing of Okinawan woman

Kenneth Franklin Shinzato
Kenneth Franklin Shinzato (TV Asahi)

OKINAWA (TR) – The defense team for a male U.S. civilian worker at Kadena Air Base says that he will deny murderous intent in his trial for the killing of an Okinawan woman last year, it was learned on Friday, reports TV Asahi (Jan. 27).

Former U.S. Marine Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, is expected to admit to charges of rape resulting in death and abandoning a corpse in the killing of 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro during his trial, which is set for the Naha District Court on a date not yet determined.

On April 28, Shinzato allegedly assaulted and raped Shimabukuro on a road in Uruma, according to the indictment. He then allegedly killed her by stabbing her after she resisted. The body of Shimabukuro was found in a grove of trees in the village of Onna the following month.

In previous media reports, Shinzato indicated during police questioning that he murdered Shimabukuro, saying he “raped her,” “clubbed her with a stick and carried her inside [my] car” and “stabbed her with a knife.”

“Animosity” toward U.S. bases

The incident came at a delicate time for Japan and the U.S., which are still in talks over the thorny issue of the future of a U.S. airbase in Okinawa.

The month before, tensions in Okinawa had simmered over the arrest of 24-year-old U.S. Navy sailor Justin Castellanos, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her 40s while she was asleep at a hotel. He later received a two-and-a-half year prison sentence.

The jury for the Shinzato trial will be lay judges selected from among local residents. In July, the lawyer for the defendant requested that the trial be held at the Tokyo District Court, saying that “animosity” among local residents toward U.S. bases would result in an unfair trial. However, the Supreme Court denied the petition the following month.