YOKOHAMA – The 19-year-old male who played a key role in the murder of a teenage boy on a Kawasaki riverbank last year was sentenced to nine to 13 years in prison Wednesday at the Yokohama District Court.
In handing down the so-called indeterminate sentence as stipulated under the Juvenile Law, presiding Judge Hiroko Kondo highlighted the cruelty of the assault that left 13-year-old Ryota Uemura dead. Uemura had been part of a group of friends that included the 19-year-old.
“The victim’s neck was slashed more than once and he was forced to swim in the river in the middle of winter,” Kondo said. “This was just so appalling — the cruelty (of the case) stands out.”
The 19-year-old, whose name is being withheld as he is a minor under Japanese law, has pleaded guilty in his trial, which was overseen by a panel of professional and citizen judges.
Two other 18-year-old males have also been arrested over their involvement in the killing, but have been indicted on the lesser charge of causing injury resulting in death.
According to the ruling, the 19-year-old killed Uemura on Feb. 20, 2015, by repeatedly slashing his throat on the banks of the Tama River in Kawasaki.
He had earlier beat Uemura on Jan. 17, hitting him in the face in neighboring Yokohama.
Prosecutors have explained the motive of the killing as “unjustified resentment.”
Prosecutors said the defendant had struck Uemura on Jan. 17, believing he had been disrespectful. About a month later, the defendant killed Uemura after the 13-year-old told friends about the earlier incident.
The prosecutors had demanded a sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison by taking into account the leading role the defendant played in the killing. His defense counsel had pleaded for five to 10 years, citing the possibility of reformation.
The father of the victim, who was a first-year junior high school student, issued a statement after the court decision, saying, “I cannot accept it by any means. The sentence is way too light.”