The case sparked public anger and further strengthened anti-base sentiment in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of USA military facilities in Japan and must deal with any crimes committed by their servicemen or related personnel.
District Judge Toshihiro Shibata, in finding Shinzato guilty of murder, said yesterday: "The immeasurable viciousness of the accused led to the senseless killing of a young woman, who only just came of age". The 20-year-old woman was found in the forest in May, three weeks after she disappeared while taking a walk.
Shinzato admitted to the charges of rape resulting in death and abandoning the victim's body, but he denied intent to murder.
He was a civilian working for an internet company on the premises of Kadena Air Base at the time, after serving as a U.S. Marine from 2007 to 2014, according to his lawyers and the U.S. Defense Department.
These crimes, as well as safety concerns after a series of aircraft emergency landings and crashes, have intensified opposition to United States military presence on Okinawa, which hosts nearly 75 per cent of the land allotted for USA bases in Japan and where about 26,000 U.S. personnel are stationed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government wants Japan to play a greater military role internationally and in Japan-U.S. security alliance amid escalating missile and nuclear threats from North Korea. James-McLean's blood alcohol content was over the legal limit.