Back in July, 70-year-old Chisako Kakehi shocked prosecutors in Japan when she admitted to killing her husband, the last in a long string of men who died after becoming romantically involved with her. On Tuesday, she was sentenced to death by hanging for the crime, along with the murders of two other lovers and the attempted murder of a fourth, the Washington Post reports.
Though she's only been convicted of three murders, the "black widow," as she's known in Japan, has been romantically connected to at least ten men who have later died, according to the Japan Times. Kakehi has allegedly been duping wealthy men in their 70s and 80s into drinking cyanide for years, pawning the poison off on them as a "health cocktail." Prosecutors say she made sure she would receive massive payouts from her victims' life insurance plans before killing them—a plot they called a "heinous crime driven by greed for money." She's reportedly inherited roughly $8.8 million in the past ten years.
Kakehi was arrested after an autopsy report revealed that her fourth husband, 75-year-old Isao Kakehi, died from ingesting a fatal dose of cyanide just a month after the two were married. After admitting to that 2013 murder—a crime she said she carried out because he was stingy with his money—the 70-year-old appeared to mock the threat of a death sentence, according to the Japan Times.
"I killed my husband," Kakehi reportedly said. "I have no intention of hiding the guilt. I will laugh it off and die if I am sentenced to death tomorrow."
Days after making the confession, Kakehi retracted it, claiming she had no memory of what she said. Her lawyers have insisted she has dementia, and vowed to appeal Tuesday's verdict. But the presiding judge, Ayako Nakagawa, said Kakehi was fully aware of the killings.
"The cases were well prepared in advance. They were cunning and malicious," Nakagawa said, according to the BBC. "I have no choice but to impose the ultimate penalty."
Japan has one of the world's lowest homicide rates, making the black widow's killing spree a particularly large scandal. As Kakehi captivates headlines in the country, authorities are still piecing together an investigation into a local man who's been accused of killing nine people after police found severed heads and women's bodies in his apartment.
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