Chase Bramlage Murder Trial Verdict In: Guilty & Sane
West Hollywood, California (Tuesday, March 31, 2009) - Justice for Fukuko Kusakari came in the form of guilty and sane verdicts against Chase Bramlage, her husband and killer, announced the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office this morning.
A jury deliberated for a half-day last Tuesday before convicting Mr. Bramlage, now age 29, of second degree murder with the use of a knife in the stabbing death of his 26 year-old wife on December 5, 2005 in their Crescent Heights Boulevard apartment in West Hollywood.
Yesterday, March 30, that same jury deliberated two hours over Mr. Bramlage's sanity. It found that he was sane at the time of the killing, said prosecuting deputy District Attorney Janis Johnson.
Mr. Bramlage's defense asserted he was 'insane" by virtue of mental illness at the time of her death; the same jury ruled yesterday that he was sane.
Beverly Hills Superior Court Judge Elden S. Fox, who presided over the trial, scheduled April 15 for motions and sentencing.
Chase Devin Bramlage is guilty of killing his girlfriend, Fukuko Kusakari, while perfectly sane and of rational mind.
Mr. Bramlage faces a 15-year-to-life state prison sentence. The use of a knife allegation could add another year to the sentence, said a DA's office press release.
Chase Bramlage was a film student, living on a stipend from his deeply-rooted and well heeled Kansas family (Kansas State University's coliseum bears the Bramlage name) in WeHo with his wife, also a film student.
On the day of Ms. Kusakari murder, Mr. Bramlage and his attorney arrived at the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station to tell deputies that they ought to go to his and Ms. Kusakari's apartment on Crescent Heights Boulevard just above Santa Monica Boulevard because a woman had been stabbed there.
Making that "welfare check," deputies discovered Ms. Kusakari's body in a pool of blood on the floor.
Mr. Bramlage was immediately arrested and has been in jail awaiting trial since then on a $1 million bail.
Ms. Johnson said that while there was no record of domestic violence, she had been able to track a circumstantial evidentiary trail that shows Mr. Bramlage acted sometimes brutally, if not violently.
"One letter he sent her after a fight apologized for hurting her," Ms. Johnson said.
"In the days before the killing," she continued, "he had mentioned to friends that he was getting sick and tired of her, expressing dissatisfaction with her openly."
Establishing whether or not Mr. Bramlage committed the crime was never at issue, except formally; he admitted stabbing his wife to death but his lawyer claimed he was 'insane' by virtue of mental illness at the time.
Ms. Johnson told WeHo News before the closing arguments that the trial seemed to exactly mirror a recent Pasadena murder case in which the defendant, George Wood Pigman IV, claimed he suffered from bipolar disorder and was in a "manic" state when he wielded the barbeque tongs with which he killed his wife.
"The two cases are eerily similar," she said. "The Pasadena case has a young, well-heeled student meeting and marrying a fellow student of Japanese descent."
Ms. Johnson said, "There's evidence of drug use and emotional instability, including whiffs of domestic violence in both cases."
Marcia Morrissey, attorney for the Menendez brothers and Snoop Dog in their murder trials, represented Mr. Bramlage.
Ms. Kusakari's family is present for the proceedings, operating through interpreters, said Ms. Johnson. They came from Osaka, Japan, to see the trial.
Another WeHo man also faces murder charges - Vitaliy Krasnoperov, 21, West Hollywood, has been charged with three counts of murder for his role in the a brutal attack on an Orange County family in 2007. See WeHo Man Charged In Anaheim Murders - June 28, 2007 or search Krasnoperov in the site's search engine for more on the killings, kidnapping, arson and assault.