Mitake, a tiny mountain hamlet located in eastern Yamaguchi Prefecture, is administrated as part of the city of Shunan (pop. 150,000). The area is so remote, cell phones don't always receive signals there.

On the night of July 21, according to news reports, two houses were completely destroyed by fire. Inside were the bodies of three elderly people, two women and a man. By noon of July 22, two more hamlet residents, one male and one female, were found murdered. Investigators said all five appeared to have been killed by a blunt instrument, with kerosene used to commit arson. The five victims' ages ranged from 71 to 80.

Soon after the crimes, some 400 policemen mounted a search for suspect Kosei Homi, a 63-year-old handyman who disappeared following the killings.