A Richmond woman confessed to undercover police that she used box cutters to slash the throat of a friend who she believed was having an affair with her husband, a jury heard Wednesday.
Jean Ann James was 69 years old when she was arrested in December 2008 and charged with firstdegree murder in the June 1992 slaying of Gladys Wakabayashi, 41, the daughter of a Taiwanese bil lionaire. Prosecutor Jennifer Horneland told the jury that police did not have sufficient evidence to lay charges following their initial investigation.
The case lay cold until 2007 when the file was reviewed by the unsolved-homicide investigation unit.
New witnesses were interviewed, old witnesses were re-interviewed and police launched a year-long undercover operation against James.
At a meeting in Montreal with police posing as members of a criminal organization, James confessed to the murder.
"She killed Gladys Wakabayashi because she had done a little digging and found that Gladys Wakabayashi had been having an affair with her husband," said Horneland.
"A few days after learning this, she told Gladys Wakabayashi that she had a gift for her and would like to bring it to her home."
Horneland said James was "sneaky" and parked her car five blocks away from the victim's home on Selkirk Street in Vancouver's posh Shaughnessy neighbourhood, then walked down the lanes rather than on the sidewalks to get to the residence.
"She put a necklace, which was the gift, around Mrs. Wakabayashi's neck and slit her throat with a boxcutter," she said.
"You will hear Jean James explain that Gladys Wakabayashi struggled, so she told Gladys that she would call an ambulance if she would give a truthful account of the affair." The prosecutor said the accused had no intention of calling an ambulance and slashed the victim on the legs because she wanted to get information from her, including how long the affair had lasted.
Horneland said the evidence will show that Wakabayashi had several incise wounds to her arms and her legs, many deep incise wounds to her chest and a massive encircling wound to her neck.
Court will hear that the slaying was discovered after the victim had failed to pick up her then-12-year-old daughter from school, said Horneland.
The daughter phoned her father, who picked her up and returned to the home, where the victim's body was discovered in the master bedroom, she said.
Raj Basra, a lawyer for James, cautioned the jury to remember the presumption of innocence for an accused. He said the central issue at trial will be the confession's reliability. "Be critical about what you hear and ultimately keep an open mind in this case."
The first witness, Edward Parker, 81, the victim's former piano teacher, told the jury he felt "very apprehensive" when she failed to show for her regular one-hour lesson.
He said he phoned the Wakabayashi residence but could only get a recorded message.
"I thought that was strange. She was very precise about appointments ... I felt there was something very serious happening."
Parker said it wasn't until the next day that he was told the "tragic" news.
He described his former pupil as "a very gentle, soft-spoken" woman who didn't initiate conversations.
"She was a little bit shy. We didn't go for coffee at all. She had her lesson. It was an hour long and then she'd be on her way."