HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — The murder trial of a 22-year-old man charged with killing three Japanese tourists during a rampage on Guam last year opened Monday with the prosecution saying rage triggered the attack, while the defense argued the defendant was mentally ill.
Authorities accuse Chad Ryan DeSoto of barreling his car down a sidewalk, crashing into a convenience store, then getting out and stabbing bystanders during the Feb. 12, 2013, attack that killed the three tourists and injured 11 others, a spate of violence that shocked the island U.S. territory.
Chief Prosecutor Phillip J. Tydingco told the 11-woman, one-man jury that DeSoto, his anger and rage fueled by problems with his life and relationships, committed his crimes in the heart of Guam's Tumon tourist district.
DeSoto "shattered the peaceful and once enjoyable tropical night of at least 14 innocent human beings," Tydingco said. He argued that the defendant acted out " his anger over his depression, anger about his life, anger about his girlfriend who left him a year or more ago to live away in Utah, anger about his job, his friends and family life."
Tydingco said that included in the evidence he will present will be an admission that he told his mother four hours after the attack that he was going to jail.
The defendant sat impassively next to his counsel, public defender Eric Miller, as the prosecutor argued his guilt.
Miller told the panel that the case was about severe mental illness.
"He is not guilty by reason of insanity," Miller said. "Mental illness is like any illness. It's like breast cancer, tuberculosis, measles. You don't choose to get it."
At one point, Miller held up a model of a human brain and said, "When this brain get diseased, a lot bad things can happen."
A few prosecution witnesses testified after the opening statements concluded, before the trial was adjourned until Tuesday morning.
Nearly 170 people are expected to testify during the trial, which court officials say will likely last more than a month.
The case has drawn international attention with questions being raised about tourist safety in the U.S. territory.
Guam is a popular destination for Japanese tourists, with flights from Tokyo taking about 3½ hours. Guam gets about 200 flights from Japan weekly, Guam Visitors Bureau spokesman Josh Tyquiengco said. Last year, Guam had 1.3 million visitors total, and industry experts expect arrivals to grow this year.
The bureau, the territory's main agency that promotes tourism, is paying for the transportation and lodging of some witnesses from Japan and Australia at the request of Guam's attorney general.