By David Yamaguchi
The North American Post
A developing story that has received scant coverage locally is that of 30-year-old Natsumi Kogawa, who until recently was an ESL student in Vancouver, British Columbia. Yet it is one that visiting Japanese students should know of.
The facts, as gleaned from Canadian media stories, are straightforward. Ms. Kogawa arrived in Vancouver from Aomori Prefecture, at the northern tip of Honshu, in May 2016. She was last seen in public at the city library in the early evening of Sept. 7, and by her roommates the next day. On the 8th, she texted a friend at 11:30 AM. It is the last time she was heard from. She was noticed missing when she failed to meet that friend at 5:30 PM as planned. On Sept. 12, her friends, unable to contact her and deeming her disappearance unlike her, contacted authorities and began a search themselves.
On Sept. 28, Ms. Kogawa’s body was found on the grounds of a vacant historical mansion. Shortly before midnight the same day, an arrest was made of William Victor Schneider, 48, who is pictured in a widely distributed surveillance video walking with Ms. Kogawa downtown about 1:30 PM on Sept. 8. The charge is “indignity to a human body.” When picked up, he was in Vernon BC, 440 km (130 miles) away. He is a drifter without an address who sometimes stayed at a Vancouver shelter.
One article, from CTV News, describes Ms. Kogawa as simply “unlucky.” But the story runs deeper than that.
In addition to being the last person known with Ms. Kogawa alive, it turns out that Mr. Schneider has a criminal past. In school, he was a bully. Later would come other charges: theft, assault, armed robbery, and possession of a controlled substance. He has spent years in jail.
Most creepily, of late Mr. Schneider had apparently been a “regular” at a coffee shop frequented by Japanese students for an English conversation group. This may be where he met Ms. Kogawa.
An emerging lesson is that it is okay to attend such groups, but that it is not advisable to go elsewhere afterward with people you meet there. The reason is the lack of background screening. Many such groups post meeting times and places on the public website Craigslist, so all are known to anyone with access to a computer or mobile phone.
Attending locals could be just as they appear: well-meaning Canadians or Americans. Or they could be the next William Victor Schneider.
The Schneider case is ongoing. In fairness, there remains a chance that he is innocent. Someone else could have killed Ms. Kogawa after they met and parted ways.
On Oct. 3, Mr. Schneider appeared briefly in court, when the judge gave him two weeks to appoint a lawyer before further court proceedings.