The. B.C. Court of Appeal has granted a new trial to former Vernon man William Schneider, convicted of second-degree murder in the 2016 death of Japanese exchange student Natsumi Kogawa. (Vancouver Police Department photo)

The. B.C. Court of Appeal has granted a new trial to former Vernon man William Schneider, convicted of second-degree murder in the 2016 death of Japanese exchange student Natsumi Kogawa. (Vancouver Police Department photo)

New trial ordered for man accused of murdering Japanese exchange student in B.C.

Decision was made on the basis of an overheard phone conversation

A new trial has been ordered for a man accused of killing a Japanese exchange student and hiding her body in a suitcase in Vancouver’s West End.

William Schneider had been found guilty of killing a Japanese exchange student, 30-year-old Natsumi Kogawa, and putting her body into a suitcase in September 2016. He was arrested in Vernon later that month.

Schneider pleaded guilty to the charge of interfering with Kogawa’s body, but appealed the murder conviction.

In a 2-1 split decision released Tuesday (Feb. 2), the B.C. Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Schneider on the basis of an overheard telephone conversation that was admitted as evidence in the original trial. The telephone call was overheard by Schneider’s brother who testified about a conversation he overheard.

According to court documents, the brother testified that Schneider borrowed his phone to call his wife in Japan. During the call, the brother said he overheard Schneider say “say to his wife, words to the effect of, ‘Have you heard the news in relation to Natsumi’s death?’ and ‘I did it’ or ‘I killed her.’”

In his reasons for ordering the new trial, Justice Richard Goepel said the original judge erred in admitting the phone conversation because the brother only heard one side of the 13-minute conversation, and acknowledged that he did not hear the entire length of it.

Goepel took issued with the words overheard by Schneider’s brother.

“I would respectfully suggest that the words ‘I did it’ said six minutes into a conversation with no surrounding context are not capable of being an admission. The words may or may not have had anything to do with Ms. Kogawa’s death,” the justice wrote.

Goepel acknowledged that the phrase “I killed her” is of a worse caliber, but noted that the brother may have missed context around those words as well.

“For example, the appellant could have been asked [by his wife], ‘Why didn’t you go to the police?” Answer: ‘[They would think] I killed her.’”

Goepel said that without having context around the words Schneider said during the phone call to his wife, and with relying on just one side of the conversation, it had not been possible for the original jury to properly gauge the importance of the phone call.

” In this case, there is no way of knowing what potentially was said before or after the overheard utterances. [The brother] was also unable to overhear the other half of the conversation. Lacking these key pieces of context, there is nothing that would allow a jury to determine the meaning of the utterances in a way that is not dangerously speculative,” Goepel wrote.

“I am of the view that no properly instructed jury could conclude that the overheard fragment was an admission. Accordingly, it is not relevant and should not have been put before the jury. It was an error to admit the evidence.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Criminal Justice

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

(Black Press Media file photo)
Aggressive bus passenger arrested in Saanich for uttering threats

Suspect had outstanding warrant for assault at bus stop, two assaults on BC Transit buses

(Pixabay photo)
New program to provide recovery beds for at-risk Greater Victoria youth

It will aim to meet ‘health and social’ needs of wide range of youth

Pacific Coastal Airline flights 8P1543 on Feb. 22 and 8P1538 on Feb. 24 had cased of COVID-19 onboard, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control. (Pacific Coastal Airlines photo)
Two flights between Kelowna and Victoria report COVID-19 exposures

Pacific Coastal Airlines flights on Feb. 22 and Feb. 24 affected

Aerial view of the Capital Regional District residuals treatment facility at Hartland Landfill where residual solids are turned into Class A biosolids. (Photo courtesy CRD)
Plant closure sends more biosolids to Hartland Landfill

Saanich residents are concerned they were never consulted

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

Vancouver and Victoria both have a MySafe machine to help reduce overdoses

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

Most Read