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

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Arrow Lakes Caribou Society said the new caribou pen near the Nakusp Hotsprings is close to completion. (Submitted)
Maternity caribou pen near Nakusp inches closer to fruition

While Nakusp recently approved the project’s lease, caribou captures are delayed due to COVID-19

The Skinny Genes Foundation is raising awareness and funds for a rare genetic disorder that claimed both his father and uncle.
NHL players, local businesses help Kootenay man raise funds and awareness for rare genetic disease

Signed NHL jerseys and local business donations up for auction in Skinny Genes Foundation fundraiser

Remi Drolet
Rossland skier competes at World Nordic ski championship

Remi Drolet was selected to Team Canada and will race at the 2021 FIS World Nordic Ski Championships

Sylvain Fabi, Canada’s chief negotiator for the Columbia River Treaty, joined a number of government and Indigenous government stakeholders for a virtual town hall on Feb. 24, 2021, to update the state of the Columbia River Treaty negotiations. Trevor Crawley photo/Zoom screenshot
Indigenous input key to Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Ecosystem function included in negotiations along with flood management and power generation priorities

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Most Read