Planet Fitness killer handed life sentence

Yu Masaki also sentenced to 20 years for shooting woman

Author: Paul Venema, Reporter,
Published On: Jul 18 2013 05:47:16 PM CDT   Updated On: Jul 18 2013 06:26:17 PM CDT

As his sentencing hearing began Thursday, Yu Masaki, 25, answered Judge Angus McGinty’s questions in Japanese.

“Are you Yu Masaki?" asked McGinty.

Masaki answered in Japanese.

“Are you going to speak Japanese or are you going to speak English?” the judge asked.

Masaki’s attorney, James Wheat, told McGinty that his client understood English and the hearing continued.

In March, Masaki pleaded guilty to shooting Juan Escamilla, 31, to death outside the Planet Fitness exercise club on Nacogdoches Road on Jan. 9, 2012. 

He also pleaded guilty to shooting and critically wounding Margaret McCombs, 21.

Escamilla, who worked at the club, was walking McCombs to her car. Masaki had been stalking her and she was concerned for her safety.

In his statement to police following his arrest, Masaki said that McCombs “broke his heart” and that he hated her for rejecting his advances.

During the sentencing hearing, McComb’s father testified that the shooting left his daughter paralyzed from the neck down and he described the round-the-clock care she needs.

Escamilla’s bother, Julio Escamilla, testified that his brother was a kind man with “a smile that lit up the room."

"He never did anything to hurt anybody,” he testified.

At the conclusion of the two-hour hearing, McGinty assessed the maximum sentence in each case: life in prison for killing Escamilla, and 20 years in prison for assaulting McCombs.

The sentences will run concurrently.

“Our family has made the choice that we will not be prisoners with Masaki and we will no longer give him any thought,” Julio Escamilla said following the hearing. “He will be the only one serving time.”

For a list of recent stories Paul Venema has done, click here.