National / Crime & Legal

Prosecutors seek life for suspect in 2005 Tochigi girl murder


Prosecutors on Tuesday sought life in prison with possible parole for the man charged with the murder of a 7-year-old girl in Tochigi Prefecture in 2005, a case that has been dogged by debate over the credibility of his confessions and a lack of reliable evidence.

In an earlier session of the lay judge trial at the Utsunomiya District Court, the defense counsel for Takuya Katsumata said the 33-year-old was not guilty and said he was coerced into making a false confession.

The court is scheduled to rule on March 31.

Katsumata was arrested in June 2014 on suspicion of stabbing Yuki Yoshida to death on Dec. 2, 2005, after allegedly abducting her on her way home in what was then Imaichi, Tochigi Prefecture.

With no murder weapon or items belonging to the victim recovered, the credibility of the statements Katsumata made during interrogation has become a major point of contention because they changed several times before he finally settled on denying the charge in May 2015.

In their closing statement, the prosecutors said that Katsumata “took the precious life of a 7-year-old and it is inhumane and extremely cruel.” They also said he has shown no remorse over the case.

They also argued that his confessions “are highly credible” because they described how he killed the girl in detail. “No one but the culprit can speak that way,” they argued, without elaborating.

Despite the defense team’s claims that Katsumata confessed to a crime he did not commit after a prolonged detention and violent treatment, the court, comprising professional and lay judges, accepted the prosecutors’ interrogation records from June 2014 into evidence.

A video recording of Katsumata explaining in detail how he killed the girl and abandoned her body was played during a trial session.

The prosecutors said the defendant spoke freely and that it was obvious he was the culprit. They cited the fact that the same type of cat hair was found on both Katsumata and the victim.

The defense argued that Katsumata’s confessions do not match the actual time, place and conditions of the murder, and further said the presence of the same type of cat hair does not mean it came from the same cat.

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