French court jails Chilean for murdering his Japanese ex-girlfriend in 2016

A French court on Tuesday sentenced a Chilean man to 28 years in prison for the 2016 murder of his Japanese ex-girlfriend in eastern France, following a high-profile investigation across three continents.

The Besançon court jury convicted Nicolas Zepeda, 31, of the murder of Narumi Kurosaki, then 21, in December 2016. The prosecution had requested life imprisonment.

Kurosaki, a scholarship student, arrived east of the city in the summer of 2016 to learn French. She disappeared on December 4 of this year.

Zepeda, with whom she had broken up a year earlier, was the last person to see her alive.

As the verdict was read after four hours of jury deliberation, Zepeda stood still, looking dejected.

Sitting opposite, Narumi Kurosaki’s mother, Taeko Kurosaki, looked at him, her head tilted slightly to the side, handkerchief in hand and still holding the photo of her daughter that she had held in her arms since the start of the trial at the end of last month.

“It’s a huge relief for the family,” said Sylvie Galley, Kurosaki’s family attorney.

“They will leave today with a lot of pain and suffering… but also with the feeling that this pain has been heard,” she told reporters.

Earlier, Zepeda, who maintained his innocence throughout the trial, again denied murdering Kurosaki.

“I am not Narumi’s killer,” Zepeda told the court before the six-member jury and three judges retired to consider their verdict.

“I’m not who I would like to be but I’m not a killer and I’m not Narumi’s killer,” he added, speaking in French for the first time in the trial.

Prosecutors alleged Zepeda was unable to handle the couple’s breakup, coming to Besançon to kill Kurosaki in his dorm room before dumping the body in the forests of the rugged Jura region.

The Chilean admitted spending the night with Kurosaki in December 2016, saying he met her by chance while traveling through France.

But several witnesses reported hearing “screams of terror” and loud noises “as if someone was hitting someone else” – although none called the police at the time.

But so far, no trace has been found of Kurosaki’s remains.

It was more than a week later, on December 13, that a university administrator reported her missing, by which time Zepeda had already left for Chile after spending several days with a cousin in Spain.

Zepeda surrendered to Chilean police and said Kurosaki was alive when he left her after spending the night together.

No traces of blood or struggle were found in Kurosaki’s dorm room, and all of his belongings were still there aside from a suitcase and a blanket.

Zepeda quickly became the prime suspect after discovering he had turned away from a forest and purchased matches and a container of flammable liquid.

Some of Kurosaki’s friends received strange messages in the following days from his social media accounts, which police say were sent by Zepeda.

He was extradited from his country to France in 2020.

In her testimony last week, Taeko Kurosaki called Zepeda a “liar” and said “this demon can’t stay free.”

“She expressed five years of pain during her testimony in court,” Galley said.

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