A man who was convicted of murdering a Japanese student in Vancouver should spend 17 years behind bars before he can apply for parole, a prosecutor argued Thursday.
In October, following several days of deliberations, a B.C. Supreme Court jury found William Schneider, 50, guilty of the September 2016 second-degree murder of Natsumi Kogawa, 30.
Second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with a period of parole ineligibility of between 10 and 25 years.
In sentencing submissions, Crown counsel Geordie Proulx argued that the circumstances were so aggravated and the risk of future dangerousness of Schneider so great, that the offender should get 17 years with no parole.
Proulx said there was a high degree of moral culpability because Schneider had attacked a defenceless and small woman.
“There must have been a period of minutes when Natsumi Kogawa was being put to death.”
He outlined the details of the offence, noting that Schneider and Kogawa, who came to Canada from Japan to study English, had met in mid- to late-August 2016.
At the time, Schneider had just returned from an unsuccessful trip to Japan to try and convince his wife to return to Canada with him and their son.
He had become enamoured with Kogawa and excited by the prospect of having a relationship with her, Proulx told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow.
Prior to the murder, they had met on two occasions, one of them apparently on a hike on the North Shore, the prosecutor said.
On the date of the offence, they met on a mall on West Hastings Street, with Kogawa purchasing several items, including a bottle of vodka.
CCTV video footage showed the two interacting amicably as they walked westbound on West Hastings towards Stanley Park.
Proulx said it appeared from the evidence provided by the accused’s brother that the purpose for the meeting was to go to Stanley Park to engage in some form of consensual sex in a tent that Schneider had recently acquired.
Kogawa had arranged to meet a man in Burnaby later in the day to get a job application for a Japanese restaurant.
Due to time constraints, a location other than Stanley Park was chosen to set up the tent, said Proulx.
The Crown’s theory is that when the victim was naked in the tent, Schneider smothered her to death by placing his hand over her mouth and nose.
Later, Schneider acquired a large suitcase, placed the body in the suitcase and left the body on a property in the West End.
Proulx said the parole ineligibility should be high because of the future risk posed by Schneider, who has 48 prior criminal convictions.
Many of the convictions were for property offences, but there were a number of violent crimes, including an incident in which he choked a woman in her apartment in Edmonton, putting his hand over her mouth and nose.
He was also convicted of several assaults on police officers and the armed robberies of several Japanese business establishments.
Proulx read out an impact statement from the victim’s mother, Emiko Kogawa, who attended the trial but has returned home to Japan.
The mother said in her statement, which was translated from Japanese, that since the murder she has not been able to feel any joy in life, keeps thinking about her daughter and cries every day.
“I feel terribly sorry that she cannot do the many things that she wanted to do in her life. She went to Vancouver to study for her future. I am horrified that her life has been ended by such an unfortunate event.”
The mother said she wondered how Schneider felt when he was killing her daughter and added she cannot believe she had not heard any apology from the offender or his family. “I cannot forgive them for their disrespectful behaviour.”
Jay Vergara, a boyfriend of Natsumi, also provided a victim-impact statement in which he said he had been diagnosed with “reactive” depression following the murder.
“Losing my girlfriend has been incredibly detrimental to my emotional well-being. I feel as if I had my future taken away because of her murder.”
Prior to final submissions, Schneider pleaded guilty to interfering with the victim’s dead body. Proulx argued that he should get four years in jail for that offence, to run concurrently with the murder sentence.
Joe Doyle, a lawyer for Schneider, said there was evidence that his client had expressed remorse and challenged the Crown’s assertion that the murder took several minutes.
The defence lawyer argued that it was not a case where there should be an increase beyond the minimum of 10 years of parole eligibility.
He said that despite his client’s lengthy record, he had committed no violent crimes from 1998 until the murder.
“There was a substantial gap in his violent offences, and I think that’s worthy of note.”
The judge said she expected to impose sentence later in November or early December.