KOBE – A 41-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison Friday over the deaths of three of eight people slain in a series of murders believed to have been masterminded by a woman from Amagasaki.
The sentence handed down to Masanori Ri, a cousin-in-law of alleged ringleader Miyoko Sumida, is the heaviest so far among lower court rulings handed to her family members and other relatives indicted over the killings.
The three victims in question were killed between 2005 and 2011 and were also living with Sumida, who had a complex family and acquaintance network. Sumida was arrested but never prosecuted because she committed suicide in a detention facility in December 2012 at the age of 64.
At the Kobe District Court, Judge Masamichi Hirashima said there was “room to consider the death penalty,” but the court did not go so far as that because Ri was in a “subordinate position” to Sumida.
“The presence of former defendant Miyoko was huge,” he said.
But Hirashima, who presided over the trial, noted that Ri “is different from other conspirators in nature” because he “actively” took part in the crimes, such as by proposing ways to confine the victims.
The sentence was in line with the claim of the prosecutors, who insisted Ri “bears the heaviest responsibility after” Sumida.
According to the ruling, Ri was living with Sumida and other people on the top floor of an apartment in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture.
Ri forced Hisayoshi Sumida, the 51-year-old husband of Sumida’s stepsister, to plunge to his death during a trip to Okinawa Prefecture in 2005. He also killed Mariko Nakajima, 26, after locking her up in a shed and physically abusing her, and murdered Hisayoshi Sumida’s 53-year-old brother and dumped his body into the sea off Okayama Prefecture. Their bodies were found in 2012 after Sumida was arrested in a separate murder case.
A total of seven people among Sumida’s family and relatives have been indicted over the deaths of the eight and the disappearances of three others. Six lower court rulings, including the one for Ri, have been handed down so far.