Print shop worker Tsutomu Miyazaki, 34, was sentenced to death April 14 for the abduction and murder of four girls in Tokyo and Saitama prefectures in 1988 and 1989 in a serial killing spree that shocked the nation.

After a seven-year trial that mainly focused on the culpability of the defendant, the Tokyo District Court found Miyazaki guilty of slaying the four girls, who were aged between 4 and 7.

Despite conflicting reports by court-appointed psychiatrists on the defendant’s mental state, presiding Judge Kenjiro Tao ruled that Miyazaki was of sound mind at the time of the murders. Standing before the judge in a navy blue suit and white shirt, Miyazaki showed no outward reaction when he was sentenced to the gallows. His defense lawyers immediately filed an appeal with a higher court.

The focus of the trial, which began in March 1990, had been whether Miyazaki was able to tell right from wrong at the time he committed the offenses. Defense lawyers argued that Miyazaki was of feeble or unsound mind at the time of the crimes and therefore should not be held liable for the killings. Under the Criminal Law, a person of unsound mind should not be subject to punishment, while a feeble-minded person is entitled to a reduced sentence.

Three teams of court-appointed psychiatrists submitted conflicting reports on Miyazaki’s mental state. One testified that he was suffering from a personality disorder but was capable of being responsible for his behavior at the time.

Another said Miyazaki suffered from multiple-personality syndrome, while a third found him to be schizophrenic. Both of these latter teams judged him to be of feeble mind at the time of the crimes.

The district court supported the psychiatric test report that found the defendant able to take responsibility for his behavior and turned down the defense lawyers’ insanity claim. In handing down the sentence, Tao said the killings were “rare, cruel, repeated crimes targeting little girls” and were motivated by Miyazaki’s sexual desires.

According to the court, Miyazaki kidnapped a 4-year-old girl in Saitama Prefecture and strangled her in a forest in suburban Tokyo in August 1988. About five months later, he burned the body near his home, it said. He placed the ashes in a cardboard box that he left in front of the dead girl’s home, the court said.

In October the same year, he abducted a 7-year-old girl while she was walking along a street in Saitama Prefecture and took her to woods in suburban Tokyo and strangled her, the court said. In December 1988, Miyazaki approached another 4-year-old girl in Saitama Prefecture, strangled her in his car in a parking lot and abandoned her body in a nearby wooded area, according to the court. In June 1989, he abducted a 5-year-old girl in Tokyo and also strangled her in his car. He later mutilated her body and abandoned parts of the corpse in wooded areas of Saitama and Tokyo prefectures, according to the court.

Miyazaki was arrested in July 1989, in Hachioji, Tokyo, on charges of trying to molest another girl after he was caught by the girl’s father. He confessed during questioning to the four slayings. After his arrest, investigators found and confiscated a collection of 5,800 animated and other videos at his home. Among the videos was one with about five minutes of footage of one of the mutilated victims, as well as a video tape from the “Guinea Pig” series in which a man kidnaps a nurse, renders her unconscious by injection and cuts off her hands, head and feet. Miyazaki later said he had felt “uncomfortable” with adult women and turned to children. He said he was attracted to necrophilia.

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