Japanese court sentences "black widow" serial killer to death

Chisako Kakehi

On Tuesday, Kyoto District Court sentenced the 70-year-old woman to death by hanging for the murders of her husband and two other romantic partners, as well as the attempted murder of another man, potentially drawing a curtain on a high-profile case that drew interest from across Japan and captured global headlines.

The Guardian reports that 70-year-old Chisako Kakehi earned millions in insurance payouts and inheritance from her four deceased lovers, amassing to one billion yen in payouts of 10 years. "The death sentence can not be avoided even after fully taking into account dementia and other factors", presiding Judge Ayako Nakagawa said in the ruling. Kakehi's three previous husbands also all died, but she has not faced charges in connection to their deaths, the BBC reported.

The accused earlier told judges she was ready to be hanged.

Her lawyers said at the time that her testimony could not be trusted because of her dementia.

Kakehi initially refused to speak when her trial began in June but later stunned the court by admitting having killed her fourth husband in 2013.

Although she was aware of the toxicity of the cyanide compounds, she gave them to the four men by putting the substances in capsule form so that they looked like supplements, the judge said.

First diagnosed with mild dementia in 2016, Kakehi said she had trouble remembering events shortly after her arrest. Her lawyers plan to appeal the sentence.

Another focal point was whether Kakehi bears criminal responsibility, as the defense claimed that she was suffering from dementia at the time of the incidents. The doctor who made the diagnosis, however, said Kekehi could be held legally responsible for any crimes committed during that time.

In the case's first public hearing, Kakehi said she would leave everything to her lawyers, but her statements during proceedings lacked coherence, including a stunning confession that she had killed her husband in 2013. The poison was found in the body of at least two of the men she had relationships with. In July, she confessed to having killed her fourth husband.

The trial heard that she had joined matchmaking services in which she had specifically requested to meet men who were rich and childless. She reportedly lost the majority of her fortune through unsuccessful financial trading.

The trial was held under the nation's lay judge system, which involves citizen judges.

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