YOKOHAMA – Three male teenagers were arrested Friday on suspicion of stabbing to death a 13-year-old boy in Kawasaki last week, investigative sources said.
The eldest of the three, an 18-year-old resident believed to be the main suspect, told investigators he wishes to remain silent, while the other two, both 17, denied any involvement in the slaying, claiming “I was only nearby” and “I have no memory of killing (Uemura).”
One of the 17-year-olds, however, fingered the 18-year-old high school dropout as Uemura’s killer, sources said.
The names of all three are being withheld because they are minors.
The naked body of 13-year-old Ryota Uemura, a first-year junior high school student, was found near the Tama River in Kawasaki on Feb. 20.
The arrests were based on security footage recorded near the scene, as well as Uemura’s logs on a free online messaging app, the sources said.
According to one of his friends, Uemura had confided that he was being hassled by a group of older boys and feared he might be killed. Uemura was subjected to escalating violence after revealing his intention to cut ties with the boys, the friend said.
An autopsy determined that Uemura died early Feb. 20 from hemorrhagic shock caused by stab wounds to his neck. There were also knife wounds to his face and arms.
The weekly magazine Shukan Shincho reported the wounds appeared to indicate Uemura’s killer may have been trying to decapitate him.
“Some investigators suspect (the criminals) watched Internet videos showing the execution of hostages by Islamic State group fighters and sought to mimic them,” the magazine said, quoting an unnamed source close to the police.
The police believe a fire reported around 3 a.m. on Feb. 20 may have been an attempt to cover up the crime, as they found charred remains of shoe soles and ash thought to be from clothes in a public lavatory in a park about 700 meters from the riverbank.
Absent from school since Jan. 8, Uemura expressed a willingness on Feb. 16 to return when he spoke with his homeroom teacher by phone, according to the Kawasaki Board of Education.
Uemura’s family moved to Kawasaki in September 2013, when he was in the sixth grade of elementary school, from an island in Shimane Prefecture.