NAHA, Okinawa Pref. – A 14-year-old junior high school student from Chatan, Okinawa Prefecture, was arrested on suspicion of murder Saturday after the body of a 13-year-old boy who attended the same school was found buried in a local cemetery earlier in the day.
The case of a 13-year-old boy at the same school who was voluntarily questioned by police in connection with the murder has been passed on to child welfare authorities, investigators said.
A graduate of the school aged 16, along with a 14-year-old girl who attends a different junior high school, were also being questioned.
All three boys have admitted to assaulting Tsutomu Zakimi at the cemetery and burying his body, saying it was the result of an argument over whether Zakimi had taken the wallet of the mother of one of the boys.
Police said they were piecing the stories together to determine the roles each of the boys played. The girl was quoted as telling police that she was with the others at the time of the attack.
According to investigators, Zakimi’s body was badly decomposed, with part already skeletonized. He had not returned to his home, where he lived with his grandfather, father and older brother, since late June.
The name of the 14-year-old suspect, who has also been charged with abandoning the corpse, is being withheld because he is a minor.
Investigators said they would conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Police searched the cemetery after receiving a phone call from another junior high school student at around 3 a.m. The caller said “a friend of a friend has been beaten and buried in Chatan,” according to investigators.
The body, which was found at around 10:45 a.m., was not deeply buried and police said that the boy had apparently died several days earlier.
According to local residents, Zakimi was often seen being bullied by other youths.
The body was found buried along a slope toward the back of the cemetery, which is adjacent to the U.S. military’s Camp Kuwae. It was placed in a depression in the ground and covered with soil.
Although a prefectural road runs nearby, few people use it at night, according to police.
Chotoku Oyadomari, 70, who lives near the cemetery, said the burial ground only has about five graves and that it gets pitch dark after nightfall.
Officials of the municipal school board arrived at the town hall after hearing that the body had been discovered for an impromptu meeting.
The victim’s family expressed shock and anger at the news. Zakimi’s 21-year-old brother said that because Tsutomu had run away from home before, the family had expected him to return.
“I once saw him come home with bruises on his face, which he said were the result of a fight, but I never heard him saying there was trouble with the kids he hung out with,” he said.