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Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007

HOSTESS ON RUN FOR TWO YEARS

Fugitive gets 15 years for killing partner


Staff writer

A bar hostess who had gone on the lam for two years was handed a 15-year prison sentence Monday by the Tokyo District Court for stabbing her lesbian partner to death.

Placed on the Metropolitan Police Department's most wanted list, 43-year-old Yuka Maeda avoided capture for two years, using more than a dozen aliases while at large from March 2005 until last March.

In handing down the ruling, presiding Judge Kiichi Hiraide said Maeda "had a clear intent to kill" when she stabbed her partner, Yuko Suzuki, multiple times with a kitchen knife.

Maeda murdered Suzuki, 39, in March 2005, after an argument over Maeda's relationship with a man, the court ruled.

Suzuki, who was stabbed 18 times in the neck and torso, was found dead a month later at the Tokyo condominium the two had shared since November 2004.

Maeda was also found guilty of using Suzuki's credit card to purchase ¥350,000 worth of luxury items, including name-brand watches, during her time on the run.

Maeda, the target of a nationwide manhunt and featured on various documentary TV programs, appeared in court in a navy sweat shirt and pants.

Expressionless throughout the sentencing, she bowed to the judge after the verdict was handed down.

The court took note of the steps Maeda took to cover her tracks during her two years at large. For example, shortly after the murder, Maeda canceled Suzuki's newspaper subscription to delay the discovery of the body.

At first taking shelter in a Shinagawa Ward condo, she later stayed at hotels in the Tokyo area to avoid detection by police.

But Maeda's luck ran out in March when she was spotted by an acquaintance at a sauna spa in Kita Ward.

She pleaded guilty to murder charges during the trial's first session in September but claimed the killing was unintentional.

Her defense team also claimed extenuating circumstances on grounds that she had no clear motive and that the killing was not premeditated.

However, prosecutors, in demanding an 18-year term, countered by noting the multiple stab wounds to Suzuki's body.

"Repeated stabbings were intended to ensure that (Suzuki) would die," they stated, adding that Maeda bore great responsibility for "using pseudonyms for two years to remain at large and rebuffing the advice of friends to turn herself in."



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