US ex-Marine gets life for rape-murder of Okinawa woman

Tokyo: Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, a former US Marine based in Okinawa, was jailed for life on Friday for murdering and raping a 20-year-old local woman Rina Shimabukuro on April 28 last year.

He was also found guilty of abandoning the victim’s body which was found in a forest on May 19.

Shinzato became the prime suspect after his car was caught in the security camera near the crime scene and the victim’s DNA was found in it.

Prosecutors said he struck Shimabukuro with a metal bar, took her to a grass field, strangled and repeatedly stabbed her before raping her.

Shinzato’s defense said he wanted to render her unconscious and rape her in a hotel room. The accused pleaded guilty to charges of raping and abandoning his victim but denied he wanted to kill her.

The prosecution said the knife and bag seized from him proved he wanted to kill her, put the body in the bag and dump it in a grave in the forest.

Shimabukuro’s case sparked massive protests in Japan leading to a pact limiting immunity from prosecution for civilian workers at American bases.  Shinzato was a civilian worker at the Kadena Air Base at the time of the crime

Okinawans oppose the presence of American troops in their island as US service men and base workers had been targeting local women for decades.

They are protesting against a plan to relocate a Marine Corps air station to another part of the island in the wake of an accident involving a US military aircraft. Protesters want the air station to be completely removed from the island since half of about 50,000 American troops are stationed there.