SAITAMA – In the early afternoon of Sept. 13, a 70-year-old resident of Kumagaya in Saitama Prefecture returned home to find a young foreign man standing in front of the entryway. He seemed agitated and spoke in broken Japanese.
“Call the police. I have no money,” the stranger said, gesturing with his thumb and pinky as if making a phone call and showing the older man his wallet.
“He appeared distressed since he couldn’t explain himself,” the resident later told the police, who arrived on the scene after he had informed officials at a nearby fire station. The young man, dressed in a dark red shirt and navy blue trousers, bowed to his elder in apology.
“I want to return to Peru,” the man, identified later as Vayron Jonathan Nakada Ludena, said through his tears after being taken to the Kumagaya Police Station.
At the station Nakada, 30, indicated that he wished to smoke a cigarette. The police, who had been arranging for an interpreter to question him, let him smoke near the entrance but Nakada then fled on foot, leaving his belongings inside.
The police did not publicly disclose information about the Peruvian man because of “thin evidence” but contacted the municipal board of education on Sept. 15, warning people to “beware of a suspicious-looking person” — especially children going to and from school.
On Sept. 16, at about 5:30 p.m., police officers spotted a man with a knife in the second-floor window of a residence in the same city. He had inflicted injuries to his wrists, and the white outer wall of the building was splotched in blood.
Before they could take any action, the man fell from the window to the ground below, fracturing his skull, and was taken into custody in an unconscious state and admitted to hospital. The police confiscated two knives.
Inside the house, they discovered the bodies of Miwako Kato, 41, and her two daughters, Misaki, 10, and Haruka, 7. They had all been stabbed to death.
Earlier that day, Kazuyo Shiraishi, 84, was found murdered in her home in the same city. Minoru Tasaki, 55, and his wife, Misae, 53, had also been found stabbed in their home and later confirmed dead on Sept. 14. There were no signs of money having been stolen.
The clothes worn by Nakada were different from those he wore three days earlier, but he was unmistakably the same man who had run off from the police station. All of the murders, the police have confirmed, took place between Sept. 14 and Sept. 16 after Nakada had absconded.
A Peruvian temporary migrant worker of Japanese descent who has been in Japan for 10 years, Nakada had quit his job at a deli food factory in Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture, on Sept. 12, and had apparently moved around aimlessly in the days that followed.
According to police, an acquaintance of his drove Nakada later in the day to the nearby prefectural capital of Maebashi, where he was caught on a security camera that night.
The next day, Nakada apparently got on a train alone from JR Maebashi Station and alighted at JR Kagohara Station in Kumagaya, where he was again spotted on a security camera.
Aside from the incident that day, Sept. 13, outside the elderly man’s house in Kumagaya, there had been two police reports of a foreign man breaking and entering into city residences. On Sept. 15, the police obtained an arrest warrant for Nakada for allegedly trespassing into a storage room in one of the two cases.
But it was only on Oct. 8 that he was arrested for the first time on suspicion of murdering the Tasaki couple after regaining consciousness and being discharged from hospital.
He was later hospitalized again for surgery on his head and served with a fresh arrest warrant on his release Nov. 4 on suspicion of murdering Shiraishi and trespassing into her home. He has denied the allegations.
Nakada had moved from place to place before finding work at the Isesaki factory in mid-August, where he sliced cabbages and performed other menial tasks.
He was paid an hourly wage of ¥1,000, working the day shift from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. and traveling back and forth to the factory from a nearby dormitory.
“He was always by himself, even when it was time to eat,” said a co-worker from South America. “I never even heard his voice,” said another Japanese co-worker.
Nakada called the temp agency on the morning of Sept. 12. The words he spoke were cryptic: “I am being followed by a person wearing a suit, so I can’t return to the factory.”
He told a brother who also lives in Japan something similar.
The news of the slayings sent shock waves throughout his hometown of Lima. His sister, Maria Espejo, 48, had been worried he might hurt himself. She was shocked when she received a phone call from her other brother in Japan.
“History is repeating itself. His photo is (in the news),” she was told by her sibling, an apparent reference to another brother in the family dubbed the “Apostle of Death” who has been held in a psychiatric prison east of Lima since 2007 after committing numerous murders in Peru.
The man suspected of involvement in the killings of six people in Kumagaya came to Japan from Peru with aspirations of creating a new life.
But the image that comes to mind from interviews with those who knew him in both countries is of a lone wolf haunted by a dark childhood, working in a far-off land.
Growing up the youngest of 11 siblings in a district east of Lima, life for suspected murderer Nakada was fractured from the start.
The steel beams on the rooftops of many of the apartment buildings in Nakada’s hometown of Ate jut skyward, their construction incomplete. The town itself is shrouded in clouds of dust from nearby mountains.
Nakada was never subjected to the domestic violence his Japanese father inflicted on his older brothers and sisters.
By the time he was born, his father had grown old and weary, no longer possessing the power to lash out. As he grew, Nakada dreamed of making a life for himself in Japan where his father had been born.
“What I experienced was true hell,” said Espejo, speaking in a recent interview with Kyodo News at her home in Ate about the family’s turbulent past.
Her Peruvian mother married a man named Nakada from Okinawa and brought along Espejo and her older sister with her into the new family. Nine more children came afterward.
According to Espejo, the father was an extremely violent man and would even threaten to kill them. The family, she said, was poor, isolated and hated by the community of Japanese immigrants.
Nakada’s father showed no interest in the children. With the mother busy at work, there was little time to look after them, Espejo said. Both parents fell ill when Nakada was still an infant and he was taken in by relatives. During that time, his parents died.
Nakada lived with his relatives in the coastal town of Bujama Baja, where the raging waves from the Pacific Ocean boomed loudly on the seashore.
According to his teachers, Nakada made good grades in elementary school and was at the top of his class at one point, but his grades took a turn for the worse in junior high school.
One of the relatives, Genaro Yan, 68, said that by the time Nakada entered puberty he had become gloomy and depressed and would often shut himself inside his room. Yan said Nakada would even dissect mice.
During his time in Bujama, not only did Nakada’s parents die but one of his older sisters committed suicide.
The sister had planned to get a job as a migrant worker in Japan, but she had a setback when she was unable to obtain a visa following the 1996 Japanese Embassy hostage crisis in Lima.
She became mentally unstable and took her own life the following year at the age of 21.
Espejo said she was left speechless when she heard that letters in the Roman alphabet had apparently been written in blood at the home of a slain married couple from Kumagaya, one of the crimes for which Nakada was arrested.
She said that the sister who committed suicide had also left letters written in blood on a wall in a message that read: “I am tired of this world.” It is unclear what the message, which was allegedly left by Nakada, meant as the letters were partly smudged.
Nakada returned to Ate while still attending junior high school but soon refused to attend school. He helped out around the house while he set his sights on going to Japan.
“He was only seeking a better life,” said another older sister, who at 33 is the closest in age to Nakada.