Two 14-year-old boys and a 15-year-old boy who escaped from a reformatory in Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, were arrested Friday on suspicion of murdering an employee at the facility during their breakout and stealing his money.
Police said Shigemasa Morino, 34, a resident of Kasugai, was found collapsed in a lounge in the reformatory at around 12:30 a.m. Friday. He was immediately taken to a hospital but confirmed dead there.
Police said they rounded up at a nearby convenience store five youths aged 12 to 15 who had fled the reformatory.
They arrested three of them on suspicion of robbery and murder after they confessed to the killing during interrogations.
The youths reportedly told police they strangled Morino during their escape and made off with his money.
According to police, the youths faked a quarrel in the lounge and tied Morino up after he had tried to intervene, then strangled the victim to steal his keys.
The boys opened a closet using one of the keys and stole about 50,000 yen, then fled the facility by using another key to open the lock, police said.
According to the reformatory, four of the five had run away last Saturday but were brought back two days later.
The reformatory, Aichi Gakuen, is designed to help minors with records of delinquency and poor family environments return to society.
Reformatory officials said it currently accommodates 38 children, including the five boys, who were sent by child consultation centers after committing thefts, threatening people and other acts of delinquency.
Teruaki Mamiya, president of the facility, told reporters later in the day, “I underestimated the power of children when they act in a group.
“I feel so sorry for Mr. Morino and his family, as well as the parents and guardians of the children,” he said.
Mamiya also said, “The boys had a strong desire to return to the outside world and felt constricted.”
Life in the reformatory is strictly regulated and free time is limited to about 2 1/2 hours a day, an official said.
The victim was employed by the Aichi Prefectural Government in 1991 and had worked at a neighboring public facility for people with disabilities until last April.
Morino was a happy and gentle man, according to his fellow workers, adding that he has young children.