UTSUNOMIYA, Tochigi Pref. – A man arrested on suspicion of abducting two young brothers confessed Tuesday to killing them, and police found one body along a river in Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture.
Akihiro Shimoyama, 39, who shared an apartment in Oyama with the boys and their father, as well as his own two children, was quoted as telling police that he killed both Kazuto Kobayashi, 4, and his 3-year-old brother, Hayato.
He was placed under arrest Sunday night on suspicion of abducting them.
Relatives identified the body found Tuesday as that of the younger boy. An autopsy performed later in the day could not determine the cause of death.
According to investigative sources, Shimoyama told police Monday night that he stopped his car near the Manaka Bridge late Saturday or early Sunday, murdered the two boys outside the vehicle and dumped the bodies into the Omoi River.
Shimoyama’s two children were apparently also in the car at the time but were asleep, the sources added.
The boys had been missing since around noon Saturday, when their father, Yasunori Kobayashi, a 40-year-old house painter in Oyama, last saw them.
Police took Shimoyama to the alleged crime scene after he confessed, to get a general idea of where the bodies were dumped. Police resumed their search for the brothers Tuesday morning, mobilizing some 470 officers. They found the body of Hayato on a sandbar in the Omoi River about 300 meters downstream from the bridge at around 10:30 a.m.
Police were unable to find Kazuto, despite a continued search of the area through the afternoon. They plan to mobilize roughly 100 investigators on Wednesday for the search.
Shimoyama and Kobayashi are both divorced fathers. The two men went to the same junior high school, with Kobayashi a grade ahead. The Kobayashis moved into Shimoyama’s apartment in late June.
Prior to his arrest, Shimoyama told police during voluntary questioning that he was not happy living with the Kobayashi family and claimed that on Saturday, he left the two brothers at a park in Oyama after driving there.
Shimoyama’s 11-year-old daughter was quoted as telling investigators that the car driven by her father passed a bumpy road that had grass growing alongside it.
The brothers “were gone” when she woke up in the morning, she reportedly said.
Upon hearing the news that one of the boys had been found dead, many local residents came to the area near the sandbar to offer flowers and incense.
“I would often see the children at the rental video shop, and they looked like they were lonely,” a 37-year-old woman said. “To be found like this. . . .”
Investigators said they also suspect Shimoyama had abused the two boys since they began living under the same roof. They had been taken into the protective custody of a local child consultation center for one day in early July after a convenience store manager saw them with bruises.
On Tuesday, center chief Katsuji Wakabayashi told a news conference that the news of the discovery of one of the boys’ bodies was deeply regrettable.
“We will go back to the basics of protecting the safety and lives of children and do our utmost to prevent a recurrence,” he said.