Japanese court rejects former Marine’s plea for change of venue in murder trial

OKINAWA , Japan, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Japan’s Supreme Court rejected a plea to move the trial of former U.S. Marine Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, charged with killing a 20-year-old Japanese woman.

Justice Yoshinobu Onuki ruled Shinzato will be tried at Naha District Court in Okinawa, the city where Rina Shimabukuro was found dead in May. Shinzato, 32, said he will not be able to get a fair trial in the prefecture due to already high emotions among locals who already think he is guilty. The Supreme Court ruled judges will review the evidence and act accordingly.

Shinzato, whose birth name is Kenneth Franklin Gadson, was employed at Kaden Air Base when the woman’s body was found.

Police said Shinzato was armed with a stick and a knife and hit the victim “with murderous intent” on the back of the head on April 29. He allegedly dragged her into the bushes and strangled and stabbed her while trying to rape her. Police said the attack was premeditated. Shinzato allegedly gave police the location of her body in May, some three weeks after she went missing.

Shinzato’s attorney said he attempted to strangle the woman after he attempted suicide with sleeping pills.

The crime fueled an already tense situation in Okinawa, where a majority of some 38,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan are located. Local residents say Americans bring crime and pollution. U.S. President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter apologized for the incident.

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