Japanese widow Chisako Kakehi was sentenced to hang on Tuesday by Kyoto District Court, after being convicted for murdering her husband and two other lovers, plus the attempted murder of a fourth man. The 70-year-old’s case has drawn considerable attention and earned her the moniker “Black Widow.”
The Japan Times reports that Kakehi caused her husband and common law partners, all of whom were in their seventies, to drink cyanide, calling it a “health cocktail.” The murders appear to have been motivated by money, and she even met some of her victims through a matchmaking service that targeted men with a high income. She made over $8.8 million in insurance payouts over a decade, though supposedly lost most of it in the stock market.
There was some controversy over the sentence, as Kakehi was exhibiting signs of early onset dementia at the time of the murders. She also, at one point, confessed to her crimes, according to the Washington Post, then retracted that confession:
When prosecutors asked her whether she killed her husband by poisoning him, she replied that there was “no mistake.”
Asked whether she was fully aware of the potential repercussions to the admission, Kakehi said “yes.” She said her husband treated her unfairly when it came to finances, giving more money to a woman he previously dated than to her. “I got angry,” she said, Mainichi reported.
But later that week, she backtracked, saying she did not remember admitting to the killing.
According to the BBC, Kakehi had three other husbands who all passed away, though she has not been charged with any crime in relation to their deaths. Though Kakehi was diagnosed with dementia in 2016, she supposedly showed no signs of it when she attempted to murder her acquaintance, Toshiaki Suehiro, in 2013.
The presiding judge, Ayako Nakagawa, stated that extenuating mental health issues could not explain away the extreme nature of her history, saying, “It was a heinous crime driven by greed for money. The death sentence cannot be avoided even after fully taking into account dementia and other factors.”