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Grand Canyon slaying suspect

A Havasupai Indian is charged in the kidnapping, robbery and killing of a Japanese tourist as she hiked to Havasupai Falls.

December 10, 2006|From Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, ARIZ. — An 18-year-old man was charged in the May kidnapping, robbery and killing of a female Japanese tourist at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, authorities said Friday.

A federal grand jury indicted Randy Wescogame on Tuesday on charges of first-degree murder, murder-robbery, robbery, murder-kidnapping and kidnapping in the killing of Tomomi Hanamure, 34, of Tokyo.

Wescogame, a member of the Havasupai Indian tribe, has been held by tribal authorities since May on unrelated assault charges. He was transferred Friday to U.S. custody and brought before a federal magistrate for an initial appearance in Flagstaff.

The indictment alleges that Wescogame willfully murdered the woman, who was traveling alone, in the course of kidnapping and robbing her on May 8.

"The facts underlying the indictment reflect the last moments of a young lady who came from Japan to enjoy the beauty of this country, and who, instead, met a senseless and tragic end to her life," said U.S. Atty. Paul Charlton. "Our thoughts remain with Ms. Hanamure's family during this difficult time."

Hanamure disappeared May 8 after checking into a lodge on the Havasupai Indian Reservation and taking a hike to the Havasupai Falls.

She was reported missing the next day after a housekeeper found her bed unused, with her passport and some of her belongings still in her room.

On May 13, four days after the Coconino County Sheriff's Office and Bureau of Indian Affairs started search and rescue operations, a group of swimmers discovered her body floating in a pool beneath a waterfall.

An autopsy determined that Hanamure had been stabbed 29 times but there was no sign that she had been sexually assaulted.

After her body was found, an FBI dive team found some of her belongings, but not her cellphone, credit cards or cash.

She had arrived in Los Angeles the week before her death and visited several tourist spots, then drove a rental car to Arizona, sheriff's spokesman Gerry Blair said in May. She parked the car on the Grand Canyon's South Rim, leaving most of her possessions inside, and hiked down to the lodge, where she checked in.

Federal and local agencies investigated the case, and the FBI offered a $5,000 reward.

Most Japanese tourists who visit northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon travel in large groups, often by bus, but Hanamure usually traveled by herself, Blair said.

He said she had been on hiking trails in the Grand Canyon a number of times and avidly pursued similar outdoor activities in other parts of the world.

The indictment accused Wescogame of acting with "malice aforethought" in carrying out the robbery. It said the woman's camera, cellphone, cash, credit cards "and other things of value" were taken.

If convicted, Wescogame could face life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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