French court sentences Chilean man to 28 years in jail for murdering Japanese ex-girlfriend in 2016

‘Their romantic relationship was marked by breakups and reconciliations’

Maroosha Muzaffar
Wednesday 13 April 2022 10:44 BST
Nicolas Zepeda was sentenced to 28 years in prison for murdering his ex-girlfriend and disposing of her body. Screengrab
Nicolas Zepeda was sentenced to 28 years in prison for murdering his ex-girlfriend and disposing of her body. Screengrab ( T13 / YouTube)

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Louise Thomas

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A French court on Tuesday sentenced a 31-year-old Chilean man to 28 years in prison for murdering his Japanese ex-girlfriend in eastern France in 2016.

The jury at the court in Besancon in France deliberated for hours before convicting Nicolas Zepeda of murdering then 21-year-old Narumi Kurosaki in December 2016.

Besides 28 years in prison, the sentence also includes a “definitive ban” on entry into French territory and the carrying of weapons, Judge Matthieu Husson said on Tuesday.

During the trial that began on 29 March in Besancon, Zepeda repeatedly denied the charges that he murdered Kurosaki and disposed of her body, and that he was driven to this act by “jealousy.”

Kurosaki arrived in France to learn French in the summer of 2016. She had broken up with Zepeda a year ago. Zepeda wanted to resume the relationship, but Kurosaki refused.

He was the last person to see her alive in December 2016.

Zepeda told the court on Tuesday: “I never wanted to be in the middle of the pain of Narumi’s family, I never wanted to be in the midst of my own family’s pain, my own pain, but I’m not a murderer, I’m not Narumi’s killer.”

On Monday, prosecutor Etienne Manteaux requested that the Chilean man be “sentenced to life imprisonment” and insisted that Zepeda “deliberately killed his ex-girlfriend with premeditation.”

Taeko Kurosaki, the girl’s mother, said during the trial that the two had met in Japan in autumn 2014 and a few months later they began a romantic relationship that was marked by “breakups and reconciliations.”

Prosecutors claimed that he came to Besancon to kill Kurosaki in December 2016. They also claimed that he dumped the body in the forests of the Jura region in France.

The prosecutors said the Chilean “suffocated” or “strangled” Kurosaki on the night of 4-5 December, when several witnesses said they heard “beatings” and “horrifying cries” of a woman in the university residence around three in the morning.

The prosecution also said that Zepeda disposed of the body in a forest in the area or threw it into the Doubs River, in the same area.

As per the investigation that spanned all these years and almost three continents, Zepeda hacked into Kurosaki’s social media accounts and sent messages to her relatives, hence making them believe that she was still alive.

“It’s a huge relief for the family,” said Sylvie Galley, the lawyer for Kurosaki’s family. “They will leave today with a lot of pain and suffering … but also with the feeling that this pain was heard.”

Zepeda had earlier claimed that he met Kurosaki in Besançon in France just “by chance” in the parking lot of her university residence on 4 December 2016.

He also said they had dinner and spent the night together. The Japanese student was not seen alive again after this.

Earlier this month, several witnesses told the court in France that they had heard “screams of terror” and thuds “as if someone was striking someone else.”

No one had called the police at the time. So far, police have not been able to find Kurosaki’s remains.

Kurosaki was reported missing on 13 December when a university administrator didn’t see her for days. By then, Zepeda had already left France and had spent a few days with his cousin in Spain.

Zepeda was extradited from his country to France in 2020.

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