In a full courtroom, as has been the case for several days, the Advocate General delivered his indictment for two hours on Monday at the Besançon Assize Court. Etienne Manteaux requested the maximum sentence against Nicolas Zepeda : life imprisonment, accompanied by a permanent ban from French territory.
The 31-year-old Chilean, tried since March 29 for the assassination of Narumi Kurosaki, his Japanese ex-girlfriend, on December 5, 2016, did not flinch at the statement of the requisitions. Her father, seated in the front row of the audience, nodded. The verdict will be delivered on Tuesday.
For convince jurors to convict Nicolas Zepeda, while the young man fiercely denies it from the start, a first obstacle must be overcome: the absence of a body. Because “without the certainty that Narumi is dead, Nicolas Zepeda must be acquitted”. Etienne Manteaux therefore gathered the arguments according to which “everything leads to involvement” of Nicolas Zepeda in this disappearance.
Twelve arguments to convince of Zepeda’s guilt
The lawyer list twelve arguments beforehand. No one has seen Narumi since December 5, 2016. Her friends did not remain inactive, they searched for her in vain. Her disappearance cannot be explained by a suicidal temptation: those who rubbed shoulders with her at university have on the contrary praised her joie de vivre and her dynamism. The projects she had in Besançon and with her new boyfriend show, according to the Advocate General, that she had no reason to disappear voluntarily, especially since she did not have the means or the networks to start a new life.
We found in her room her coat, more than 500 euros and her bank card, on the other hand, she would have left with a blanket, a fitted sheet? The removal of his SIM card and his phone are intriguing. Similarly, the messages received by his relatives after his disappearance do not correspond to him. Incoherent also, according to the Advocate General, the intention displayed in these messages to go to the consulate of Lyon, while it depends on that of Strasbourg.
Narumi does not appear in the list of passengers who traveled with Nicolas Zepeda to Barcelona and Chile. Finally, there are the screams heard the night of December 5 in the dormitory where Narumi resided.
“If he couldn’t win her back, then he had a plan B: eliminate her”
During this indictment, Nicolas Zepeda listens and looks at the Advocate General, translation helmet on ears, surgical mask on nose, in shirt and tie. Narumi’s mother holds a small bouquet of roses in her arms.
The conviction that the Advocate General wants the jury to share? Nicolas Zepeda suffocated Narumi, in his will to control of the young woman. If he couldn’t win her back, then he had a plan B: eliminate her.
According to Etienne Manteaux, he premeditated his crime, carried out scouting south of Dole, in the Jura, from December 1, an area where he returned on December 6, also at night. He bought a can of flammable product and matches. Zepeda rode around the Crous residence in the days and nights preceding December 5, as evidenced by video surveillance. After the murder, he would have got rid of the body by throwing it into the Doubs. Back in Chile, “he was sure of his impunity”.
Following the Advocate General, Me Laffont, Nicolas Zepeda’s lawyer, delivered a sensitive and firm argument. On Friday, she explained how “shattered” she was by this trial. This Monday, she begins her speech by recalling “the heartbreaking testimony of Narumi’s mother and sister” who does not “don’t leave”.
I don’t believe in premeditation – Me Laffont, Nicolas Zepeda’s lawyer
“Being a lawyer means soliciting, looking for the slightest bit of doubt” continues Me Laffont. She does not seek to absolve her client: “I know he lied. But lying does not make him an assassin“. Nothing allows, she adds“affirm a planned murder project”.
“I don’t believe in premeditation” forcefully affirmed Me Laffont before the court. And she opposes perpetuity claimed by the Advocate General against Nicolas Zepeda: “It’s banishing him forever”. Stressing that the experts did not see in him the risk of recurrence. If Nicolas Zepeda does not say that he killed Narumi, she explains, it is either that he did not do it, or that it seems to him “inconceivable” to have done it.
Me Laffont then tackles the “arguments” raised by the Advocate General, and the purchases of his clients, proof of premeditation according to the prosecution. She sweeps them away one by one, with the back of her hand. The famous can of flammable product, for example, “we found no trace of it anywhere”. For the lawyer, Nicolas Zepeda did not try to hide : he pays with his credit card for example, he leaves “small pebbles everywhere”. A behavior incompatible, according to her, with the profile of an assassin. His collaborator, Me Benedetti, pleaded “doubts“which must lead to the acquittal of the accused. She insisted in particular on theabsence Narumi’s DNA traces in the rental car, and of body.
This is the most difficult plea of my life – Me Laffont, Nicolas Zepeda’s lawyer
Me Laffont takes the floor one last time. “This is the hardest plea of my life“says the lawyer, moved, her voice almost trembling. “But what can I tell youshe adds, is that Nicolas Zepeda in no way deserves what was required“(Editor’s note: life imprisonment). “If he is guiltycontinues the defense lawyer, he didn’t tell anyone. If he is innocent, everything accuses him, and he is the only one who knows it”. Nicolas Zepeda’s father, in the front row of the courtroom, takes his head in his hands. Me Laffont ends with a question addressed to the jurors: “What if by chance he was innocent?“The president suspends the hearing.
Pleadings of the civil party: Me Galley uses the word feminicide
Before the indictment, this Monday morning, it was the lawyers for the civil parties, the representatives of the victims, who pleaded. First to speak, Me Galley, who defends Narumi’s family. Faced with the sobs of Nicolas Zepeda, she calls to privilege “the chaste tears” the victims. She describes a form of Nicolas Zepeda’s grip on Narumi Kurosakithroughout their relationship, which is accentuated after their breakup, with the conditions that he imposes on the young woman.
For the first time in this trial, Me Galley uses the term feminicide: “Narumi is not a suicide, she is not a voluntary missing person. She is even less of an evaporate, as he wanted us to believe. She was killed by the hand of the one who claimed to love her.”
This argument in which the lawyer evokes the crime but also the impossible mourning, the absence of body of Narumi, is once again difficult to hear for the mother of the victim, who took out the portrait of her daughter. Mr. Galley concludes with a japanese proverb : “A father’s love is higher than a mountain. A mother’s love deeper than an ocean.” She also shows the origami (paper figurines) that Narumi’s sister makes during the trial.
Me Schwerdorffer, who represents Arthur Del Piccolo, Narumi’s boyfriend at the time of the disappearance, insisted on the “manipulative” character according to him of Nicolas Zepeda : “I myself feel manipulated by Nicolas Zepeda. He organizes and manages the hearing like a victim”.
But if we get out of this “toxic climate” says the lawyer, what do we see? “A crime in cold blood” that he tries to hide with his “lies” and his “version changes”.