• Kyodo

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A 33-year-old woman charged with killing a neighbor boy in Fujisato, Akita Prefecture, has told police she was with her daughter on a bridge when the girl fell off and drowned in a river in April, reversing her earlier claim that she last saw her when the girl left home to see a friend, investigative sources said.

Suzuka Hatakeyama was arrested last month on suspicion of killing Goken Yoneyama, 7, in May and dumping his corpse along a river near where her 9-year-old daughter, Ayaka, was found drowned a month earlier in what police initially concluded was an accident.

Hatakeyama has told investigators that she and Ayaka went to the Osawa Bridge on the Fujikoto River, some 2 km from their home, in the evening of April 9 because the girl wanted to go there, according to the sources.

Hatakeyama reportedly claimed her daughter accidentally fell into the river but she was “too upset” to call for help.

Police are investigating the girl’s death, as Hatakeyama has given inconsistent and sometimes nonsensical accounts of Yoneyama’s slaying, including over where he was killed. She has admitted killing the boy, who lived next door.

Hatakeyama on the evening of April 9 alerted the Noshiro Police Station that her daughter was missing after leaving home to show her friend some toys. The girl’s body was found the following day about 4 km downstream of the Osawa Bridge.

Police at the time concluded she accidentally fell into the river after finding prints similar to the shoes the girl was wearing and no wounds on her body indicating she might have been victim of a crime.

But Hatakeyama had told police that her daughter would not have gone to the river alone. She also told a lawyer that police might reopen the case if she kidnapped a child.

Police began probing the girl’s death after finding Yoneyama’s corpse on May 18 near the banks of the Yoneshiro River in Noshiro, about 8 km from his home and about 2 km from where Ayaka’s body was found. He bore strangulation marks.

Police arrested Hatakeyama on June 4 on suspicion of dumping the boy’s body, and and served her another warrant June 25 for his murder.

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