• Kyodo

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Three teenage murder suspects in Okinawa claim they did not intend to beat 13-year-old Tsutomu Zakimi to death, as alleged by police, a lawyer for the three said Monday.

The lawyer quoted two of the suspects, boys aged 16 and 14, as saying that they did not intend to kill the victim and that they left his body in the cemetery in the town of Chatan where the beating took place out of fear of being caught. They reportedly said they knew Zakimi was dead when they left.

The third suspect under arrest is a 14-year-old girl, who is being held on suspicion of helping the boys.

A 13-year-old boy also believed to be involved in the June 28 attack was sent by a child welfare center to a family court in Okinawa Prefecture. Under the Juvenile Law he is exempt from arrest because he is under 14.

Police allege that the suspects knew Zakimi would die if they continued beating him, and said a wooden club and an iron pipe believed used in the slaying have been found.

They suspect the three boys beat Zakimi for about two hours until he died after they accused him of stealing money from one of their mothers.

They have also determined that the suspects assaulted him over money troubles on an earlier occasion.

According to the lawyer, the 16-year-old suspect admitted during a police interrogation to beating Zakimi.

The lawyer also quoted the 14-year-old male suspect as saying, “I hit (the victim) with a wooden stick,” and the girl as saying she watched the beating but did not participate or help dump the body.

Police arrested the two older boys and the girl Saturday.

The 13-year-old boy was taken into custody the same day and later taken to the child welfare center.