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Murder trial begins in killings of Japanese tourists on Guam

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    Opening statements have started for the trial of Chad DeSoto, right, at the Superior Court of Guam in Hagatna, Guam, on Monday, June 16, 2014. DeSoto is on trial for the deaths of three Japanese tourists and injuring several others on a sidewalk in Tumon on Feb. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Pacific Daily News, Masako Watanabe, Pool)

HAGATNA, Guam >> The murder trial of a 22-year-old man charged with killing three Japanese tourists during a rampage on Guam last year opened Monday with the prosecution saying rage triggered the attack, while the defense argued the defendant was mentally ill.

Authorities accuse Chad Ryan DeSoto of barreling his car down a sidewalk, crashing into a convenience store, then getting out and stabbing bystanders during the Feb. 12, 2013, attack that killed the three tourists and injured 11 others.

Chief Prosecutor Phillip J. Tydingco told the 11-woman, one-man jury that DeSoto, his anger and rage fueled by problems with his life and relationships, committed his crimes in the heart of Guam’s Tumon tourist district.

DeSoto “shattered the peaceful and once enjoyable tropical night of at least 14 innocent human beings,” Tydingco said. He argued that the defendant acted out “his anger over his depression, anger about his life, anger about his girlfriend who left him a year or more ago to live away in Utah, anger about his job, his friends and family life.”

Tydingco said he will present evidence that DeSoto told his mother four hours after the attack that he was going to jail.

The defendant sat impassively next to his counsel, public defender Eric Miller, as the prosecutor argued his guilt.

Tydingco called three witnesses to the stand Monday, including a security guard for The Globe nightclub who said he witnessed the defendant plow his car into pedestrians standing nearby.

The three tourists killed were 81-year-old Kazuko Uehara and 29-year-old Rie Sugiyama, who were stabbed to death; and Hitoshi Yokota, 51, who was hit by a car and died in a hospital two days later.

Miller told the panel that the case was about severe mental illness.

“He is not guilty by reason of insanity,” Miller said. “Mental illness is like any illness. It’s like breast cancer, tuberculosis, measles. You don’t choose to get it.”

Miller said when a brain gets diseased, a lot of “bad things can happen.”

About 120 people are expected to testify during the trial, which court officials say will likely last more than a month. One of the key witnesses expected to testify is the defendant’s former girlfriend, Reanne Acasio.

Miller told jurors they will hear back from the defense next month, when the defendant’s family, including his mother, will testify. He also said three psychiatrists will testify that DeSoto has a mental illness. Miller added that toxicology reports will show no drugs were in the defendant’s body, and that the victims were chosen at random.

Guam is a popular destination for Japanese tourists, with the territory getting about 200 flights from Japan weekly, Guam Visitors Bureau spokesman Josh Tyquiengco said. Last year, Guam had 1.3 million visitors, and industry experts expect arrivals to grow this year.

The visitors bureau is paying for the transportation and lodging of some witnesses from Japan and Australia at the request of Guam’s attorney general.

The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday.

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