B.C. man who murdered Japanese student gets life with no parole for 14 years

William Schneider, 51, killed Natsumi Kogawa in 2016, and stuffed her body into a suitcase.

William Schneider was convicted of second-degree murder on Oct. 19

The body of Natsumi Kogawa, 30, was found in a suitcase outside the Gabriola Mansion on Davie Street. (Vancouver Police Department)

The man convicted of murdering a Japanese exchange student and stuffing her body into a suitcase will spend 14 years behind bars before he has a chance at parole, a B.C. Supreme Court justice has ruled.

William Schneider, 51, was sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday afternoon for the 2016 slaying of 30-year-old Natsumi Kogawa.

Justice Laura Gerow described the case as a strange one, as there appeared to be no motive for Schneider to kill Kogawa. The murder seemed to be completely unprovoked.

"This was the killing of a completely innocent young woman," Gerow said. "This was a random and impulsive killing that seems to not have had any impact on Mr. Schneider's subsequent behaviour."

She said the murder, combined with his long criminal history, suggest that Schneider presents a "high level of future dangerousness."

The judge also sentenced Schneider to 3.5 years for interfering with Kogawa's body, to be served concurrently with the murder sentence. She said his handling of the body was "disrespectful and a defilement."

"Mr. Schneider treated Ms. Kogawa's body like garbage and left it to decompose in a suitcase," Gerow said.

Kogawa's naked body was found inside the suitcase on the grounds of the Gabriola Mansion in Vancouver's West End on Sept. 28, 2016 — more than two weeks after her friends reported her missing.

She had been studying English in Vancouver on a student visa.

Schneider stashed Kogawa's body outside the Gabriola Mansion. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

Forensic pathologists were not able to determine Kogawa's cause of death, but the theory put forth by prosecutors was that Schneider had asphyxiated her. When detectives interviewed Schneider and asked how Kogawa died, he twice made a gesture covering his mouth and nose.

What's clear is that Kogawa and Schneider were acquaintances before the murder, and had met up on the afternoon of Sept. 8, 2016, to go to Stanley Park. Schneider told police he was expecting to have sex with her in a tent.

He killed Kogawa that day, later disposing of her clothes, belongings and his tent.

Apology for mother's pain

Earlier Friday, Schneider stood before the court and addressed a short statement to Kogawa's mother, Emiko, who was not in court. He said he will never forget the pain in her voice when she spoke of the murder. 

"I've never heard such pain like that before," Schneider said. "It's difficult for me to imagine your pain.... Yes, you may well wish me dead. I understand that, and I'm just so sorry for your pain."

He did not, however, apologize for killing Kogawa.

Emiko Kogawa, the mother of Natsumi Kogawa, attended every day of William Schneider's trial but was not present for sentencing (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

A jury found Schneider guilty earlier this month of second-degree murder. He pleaded guilty to a charge of interference with human remains four days earlier.

Friday morning, defence lawyer Joe Doyle had argued that Schneider should serve the minimum allowable sentence for second-degree murder: life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Doyle said that previous examples of violence by Schneider date back to "a long time ago." He argued that his client deserved some credit for eventually revealing the location of Kogawa's body, but quickly added that his client was hardly citizen of the year.

Earlier this week, Crown prosecutor Geordie Proulx argued that Schneider should have to spend 17 years in prison before he can apply for parole. Proulx said Schneider has a history of sadistic violence and remains a risk to the public.

In one case, Schneider choked a woman in an Edmonton apartment, covering her mouth and nose with his hand.

As part of his sentence Schneider will also have to submit a DNA sample, be banned from owning firearms, and pay $200 victim surcharges for each offence.

With files from Yvette Brend

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