• Kyodo

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A prisoner won’t face charges over a confession he made three years ago about killing a man in 1980 because the statute of limitations had expired, investigative sources said Monday.

Police originally treated the case as a suicide, even though the victim was bound hand and foot.

Yoshiki Koyama, 21, was found drowned in a reservoir in the village of Ikusaka, Nagano Prefecture, in March 1980 and police concluded at the time that the death was a suicide, reasoning that since the binds were somewhat loose the victim could have managed to tie himself up.

The 54-year-old inmate, who is serving time for violating laws against stimulants, sent a letter to the Toyoshina Police Station chief in Nagano Prefecture in April 2000 in which he confessed to murdering Koyama.

When investigators subsequently questioned him, he provided information that would only be known to the culprit, according to the sources.

As a result of the reinvestigation, police concluded that the inmate had bound Koyama’s arms and legs with rope and threw him into the reservoir on March 1, 1980, the sources said.

Koyama had disappeared earlier that day, when he was allegedly abducted by a man in a car while talking with a female acquaintance in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.

Investigators quoted the inmate as saying he killed Koyama because he thought he was reporting trouble between them to police.

Koyama’s body was found March 29 that year, and an autopsy determined that the death was due to drowning.

Police sent the case to prosecutors Monday, but the inmate will not be indicted because the 15-year statute of limitations for murder has expired.

Koyama’s family lost their right to file a civil suit in March 2000, when 20 years had passed since the suspected murder.

The inmate reportedly told investigators in 2000 that he confessed to the murder because he could no longer be held responsible either criminally or in a civil suit.

The sources said police apologized to Koyama’s family late last month over their failure to realize the case had been a murder.

Akio Oguchi, head of the Nagano Prefectural Police detective division, explained the circumstances of the case to the day’s meeting of the prefectural assembly’s committee on general affairs and police matters and said he wants to apologize to the victim and his family.

Koyama’s brother, Yoshimi, 51, expressed confusion at the latest turn of events, saying he had been sure police had conducted a thorough investigation at the time.

At the time Koyama’s body was found, Nagano police were involved in a massive investigation into the abduction and murder of two women, in Nagano and Toyama prefectures. Observers speculate that police conducted merely a cursory probe into Koyama’s death because they had their hands full.

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