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Osaka court hands woman life sentence for killing friend, dismembering body

Terumi Morishima
Terumi Morishima received a life sentence for killing Sawako Watanabe and dismembering her corpse in December, 2015

OSAKA (TR) – The Osaka District Court last week handed a sentence of life in prison to a 31-year-old woman for killing a female acquaintance and dismembering her corpse two years ago, reports NHK (June 30).

On Friday, presiding judge Tomo Shibayama ruled that Terumi Morishima, a self-described illustrator, planned the crime that resulted in the killing of Sawako Watanabe, 25, whose severed remains were found in two locations in December of 2015.

“Before the incident, you browsed the internet to learn the means for cutting up a corpse,” said the judge. “It is clear that you killed her for the purpose of stealing money.”

According to the indictment, Morishima allegedly strangled Watanabe to death in the apartment of the defendant in Kadoma City on December 24 or 25, 2015. Morishima, who also uses the surname Nagata, faced nine charges in the case, including murder and robbery and destruction of a corpse.

On December 29, police searched the apartment of Morishima and found a skull and other body parts inside the bathroom and a freezer. Investigative sources later revealed that Morishima had purchased a freezer, a saw, polyethylene bags and a bucket at a hardware store in Kadoma on December 25.

Morishima denied killing Watanabe. According  to a previous reportMorishima told police during questioning that she and Watanabe had been planning to hold a Christmas party at her residence. “After I left the apartment and returned, I found [Watanabe] collapsed and not breathing,” the suspect is quoted by police. “I then cut up her body to conceal it.”

Judge Shibayama found the explanation to be “unnatural.” “In order to hide the evidence of the killing, you thoroughly destroyed the body,” the judge said. “It can be said that it was a cruel and malicious crime, one in which the responsibility is heavy.”

The defendant is also alleged to have stolen a bank card belonging to the victim and withdrawn 100,000 yen in cash from a convenience store ATM. The prosecution believed the money was used to buy the equipment for cutting up and disposing of Watanabe’s body.

Between August and the end of November, Morishima lived with Watanabe at a shared-living facility located about 300 meters away from the apartment. Police also found more body parts inside a closet at the facility.

The lawyer for the defendant said that an appeal will be filed.