Osaka High Court upholds death penalty for ‘black widow’ serial killer Chisako Kakehi

The Osaka High Court on Friday upheld the death penalty imposed on a 72-year-old woman dubbed Japan’s “black widow” for murdering her husband and two common-law partners with poison to inherit money and escape debt.

In handing down the sentence to Chisako Kakehi, presiding Judge Hiroaki Higuchi said there was no error in the lower court ruling that recognized she had murdered the three men and attempted to murder another. The judge also rejected her lawyers’ claim that she cannot be held responsible due to dementia.

“The crimes were premeditated and she properly understood the situation,” the judge said, referring to capsules containing cyanide that were prepared for the victims.

The lawyers for Kakehi, who has pleaded not guilty, immediately appealed the ruling.

According to the ruling, Kakehi murdered her 75-year-old husband, Isao Kakehi, and common-law partners Masanori Honda, 71, and Minoru Hioki, 75, and tried to kill her acquaintance, Toshiaki Suehiro, 79, by having them drink cyanide.

The murders, which took place in Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo prefectures between 2007 and 2013, drew a great deal of attention, with the media portraying her as a woman who preyed on wealthy and elderly men.

Kakehi was married or associated with more than 10 men and inherited about ¥1 billion. She eventually fell into debt following failed stock investments.

At the Osaka High Court, the lawyers called for new psychiatric tests to check whether Kakehi is competent to stand trial. But the request was rejected, clearing the way for Friday’s ruling.

Kakehi did not appear in the first and only hearing at the high court in March, but attended Friday. A defendant has no obligation to attend an appeal trial.

She talked quickly when the judge asked her to give her name and date of birth, and she looked as though she was wiping away tears when listening to the ruling.

In November 2017 the Kyoto District Court’s ruling acknowledged that the defendant had developed dementia from around 2015, but determined that she was competent to defend herself at trial because the symptoms were not serious and the progress of the disease was slow.

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