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

With the full build-out of its 477 Hilchey Road development almost complete, Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North is setting its sights on its next batch of housing: right next door. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Habitat for Humanity looks to start a third Hilchey Road project

With the current site on Hilchey Road in the final stage of… Continue reading

Ian Baikie shows the new kitchen space at Hama?Elas shortly before the facility opened late last year. Mirror File Photo.
Campbell River City Council updated on Hama?Elas and Kwesa Place

Funding was set to run out at end of March, but organizers say they can go another six months

Tyson Popove placed second in his category at the Mt. Washington Viewtour Virtual Slopestyle event. Photo by Shawn Corrigan
Campbell River skier goes big at Mt. Washington competition

Tyson Popove places second in virtual slopestyle event

Elk Falls plunges into the canyon during a high flow event. Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror file
Water flows down Elk Falls Canyon to increase to accommodate steelhead migration

Public safety advisory in place for the river from John Hart Dam to Elk Falls during the migration flows

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead on Quadra Island

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

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

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

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

Most Read