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

The entrance to the Lodge Property on Reef Point Road. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Virtual public hearing held for the Lodge Property in Ucluelet

Mayor and council to make a final decision during the April 14 regular council meeting

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s Green Point Campground saw an unprecedented flurry of reservations last week. (Pacific Rim National Park Reserve photo)
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s campground sees ‘unprecedented’ interest as reservations open

Green Point Campground is scheduled to open from May 1 – Oct. 12 this year.

Kale is a classic in West Coast gardens.
COLUMN: Kale reigns supreme in West Coast gardens

In Tofino and Ucluelet, kale is a classic.

(B.C. Government photo)
POLL QUESTION: Are you in favour of B.C.’s three-week ban on in-restaurant dining?

Dr. Bonnie Henry called the three week stoppage a “circuit breaker”

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

Restaurant owners Oura and Kymon Giakoumakis visit the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PODCAST: COVID-19 pandemic hits Island’s food service industry hard

Pair of Vancouver Island restaurant owners share thoughts and advice

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward
1 in 3 young Canadians have given up on owning a home: poll

Data released Monday says 36% of adults younger than 40 have given up on home ownership entirely

A Nanaimo man will serve nine months in jail for the sexual assault of a young girl he admitted to having committed more than 40 years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo man sentenced for sexually abusing girl more than 40 years ago

Man, now 71, gets nine-month sentence for abuse of friend’s daughter

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. urges people to stay in their neighbourhoods, discourages out-of-household meet-ups

Dr. Bonnie Henry says there should be no travel, even to the next city over

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Most Canadians plan to get COVID-19 vaccine, but safety fears drive hesitancy: poll

This comes as confidence in governments is plummeting in provinces being hit hardest by the pandemic

Marathon of Hope runner Terry Fox is shown in a 1981. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/CP)
Terry Fox’s legacy of resilience resonates during COVID-19 crisis, says brother

Fred Fox said his brother’s legacy of resilience has taken on renewed resonance as COVID-19 rages on

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

Most Read