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UPDATE: Accused Richmond woman sought details of victim's death, court told

Jean James spoke to husband of slain woman days after her death

Four days after Gladys Wakabayashi was stabbed to death in 1992, accused killer Jean James was probing for details on how the body was found, B.C. Supreme Court heard Thursday.

Wakabayashi's former husband Shinji testified that James approached him at his motherin-law's house on June 28, 1992 and wanted information about his estranged wife's fatal injuries.

"She asked me how was she killed and I told her I can't really explain much, but I told her I saw [Gladys] lying on her back face upward with a cut on her neck," Shinji Wakabayashi said through a Japanese interpreter.

James, of Richmond, is charged with firstdegree murder in the stabbing death of Wakabayashi at her Shaughnessy home on June 24, 1992. The Crown alleges James killed her friend of several years after learning that the wealthy heiress was having an affair with James' husband Derek.

Shinji said he found his wife near the closet of her master bedroom about 5: 30 p.m. that day.

"I saw a big cut on her neck," he said, adding that he tried to push her to see if she was alive before trying to call 911.

The soft-spoken executive with Japan Airlines also identified the voice of both James and her husband Derek on answering machine messages left at Gladys Wakabayashi's home and played in court Thursday.

Derek James left affectionate messages calling Wakabayashi "love" and "darling" and telling her not to call him back.

Elisa Wakabayashi testified earlier Thursday that she saw James in her mother's bedroom on the evening of June 22, 1992 - just two days before the murder.

She said she ran into her mom's room to answer the phone and found James there, inquiring whether it was Derek on the line.

Elisa, who was just 12 at the time, testified that she last saw her mother alive just before 9 a.m. on June 24 as Wakabayashi dropped her off at her school.

Her mother always picked her up at three, but did not show up that day. "I waited for a couple of hours and shortly before five, I called my dad to pick me up," she said.

She said her father was "quite hysterical" when he found Wakabayashi's bloody corpse.

"He was very, very upset and difficult to understand, but he told me what had happened," Elisa said.

James, 72, was charged in 2008 after a year-long undercover investigation. Prosecutor Jennifer Horneland said in her opening statement that police obtained a videotaped confession from James after posing as an organized crime group that convinced James to do work for it.

Horneland said James confessed to slitting Wakabayashi's throat with box cutters after pretending to have bought a necklace for her friend.

Elisa testified that her parents had been friends with Jean and Derek James "for seven or eight years" and that she had attended a Montessori school with their son Adam until Grade 3.

"We went to their home for dinner parties quite often and they would also come to our house," Elisa said.

Former Vancouver police homicide detective Larry Peters testified that he arrived at the murder scene just after midnight June 25. He said there was a "massive amount of blood" in the dressing area of the master bedroom. There were smudged bloody footprints on the carpet, he said and a clearer one on the bathroom ceramic floor that appeared to be from a woman's high-heel shoe.

Peters told jurors a search of James' Richmond home on July 10, 1992 turned up no matching footwear. Nor did police get any evidence from the carpet of James' vehicle, Peters testified.

Police also put together a "strike force" to follow James around at the time, he said, but got no evidence from the surveillance.

By October 1992, detectives had exhausted all their leads and did not have enough evidence against any suspect to recommend charges, Peters testified.

The trial continues.

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