WAKAYAMA – A 22-year-old Wakayama man was arrested early Saturday in connection with the fatal stabbing of an 11-year-old neighbor in the city of Kinokawa that was so vicious it sparked a manhunt throughout the prefecture.
Oshu Nakamura, who lives near the home of the victim, fifth-grader Toshi Morita, was taken into custody after police questioned him on a voluntary basis Friday evening and requested a warrant for his arrest.
Police later searched Nakamura’s home and confiscated several knives and a hatchet, investigative sources said.
Nakamura denied allegations that he was in any way involved in the stabbing, saying he had never seen Morita before.
The boy died near his home Thursday afternoon after he was found lying in a vacant lot bleeding from deep stab wounds to his chest and head.
Earlier, police said they were looking for a suspect about 170 cm tall and around 30 years old who was last seen wearing a workman’s jacket and blue jeans and who was believed to have fled the scene on foot.
An autopsy found that Morita died from massive blood loss after being stabbed in the heart. The police said he died instantly.
The autopsy revealed about 10 other wounds, including two to his head that were deep enough to break bone and cuts on both arms, probably inflicted when he tried to defend himself.
The police said the locations and characteristics of the wounds indicate the attacker may have used several types of weapons, including a hatchet or ax.
In the neighborhood, Nakamura was known for his “eccentricity.” He lived with his parents in a pink house and was occasionally seen out front swinging a wooden stick and shouting in a loud voice, neighbors said.
“On the early mornings in summer and autumn, I occasionally saw him half-naked, swinging a thick wooden stick,” a 55-year-old man living in the neighborhood said.
Another neighbor, a 54-year-old woman, said Nakamura had probably practiced kendo and recalled seeing him wearing goggles and swinging a bamboo sword in front of the house.
He was also described as being a hikikomori (a social recluse) since he dropped out of a local technical high school several years ago, some of the neighbors said.
Meanwhile, other neighbors said they never had an impression of the suspect being violent.
“When I was a little kid, we used to play together a lot,” said a young man in the neighborhood. “I don’t remember when we last spoke, but I just can’t believe he is involved in a case like this.”
Before Nakamura’s arrest, witnesses said they had seen a suspicious-looking man in the area over the past few days.
A local man in his 30s who discovered the boy after the attack said that while doing some gardening near his home, he noticed a man pass his house and head to the vacant lot where the boy was found. Soon after the man disappeared from view, the witness heard screaming and then saw the man walking past his house again in the opposite direction. He rushed to the vacant lot, discovered the bleeding boy and called an ambulance. The boy was taken to a hospital where he was confirmed dead.
Another neighbor told police she saw a suspicious-looking man in his 20s or 30s peeking into Morita’s house on Sunday.
With the suspect was still at large Friday, education officials in Kinokawa had warned the city’s 23 elementary schools to exercise caution and were discussing steps to ensure children could be safe when going to and returning from school. On Friday afternoon, worried parents drove to school to pick up their children after classes were over.
A sixth-grader who knew the slain boy said students learned about the killing earlier in a schoolwide broadcast.
“I prayed for him, telling him that we all thank him for being friends with us,” the boy said.
Akinobu Yamamoto, 65, whose granddaughter was a friend of Toshi, said the girl is in tremendous shock. “The incident has struck us with something beyond grief,” he said.