CHIBA – A 46-year-old man was arrested Friday in connection with the murder of a Vietnamese girl whose body was found last month near a drainage ditch in Chiba Prefecture, investigative sources said.
Yasumasa Shibuya, who claims to work in the property leasing business, was arrested for allegedly abandoning the 9-year-old victim’s body. His DNA matched a sample police collected at the crime scene, the sources said.
In a shocking revelation, the local education board revealed that Shibuya headed the parents’ association of the girl’s elementary school. Residents said he took turns with other parents to act as crossing guards, watching over roads in school zones to protect the children.
The victim and the suspect lived about 300 meters apart.
“I was waiting for news of the suspect’s arrest,” the girl’s father Le Anh Hao, who temporarily returned to Vietnam for her funeral, said over the phone. “But I don’t feel at ease because I don’t know who the suspect is.”
According to the Chiba Prefectural Police, the man was expected to be handed to prosecutors on Saturday and is exercising his right to remain silent. They said Shibuya is the only suspect in the kidnapping and murder.
Third-grader Le Thi Nhat Linh’s naked body was discovered by police in a grassy field in nearby Abiko on the morning of March 26. Her body was likely dumped after she was strangled elsewhere, the police believe, noting they found no signs of a struggle.
The girl, called “Linh-chan” by her neighbors, had been living with her parents and younger brother in Matsudo since moving from Kawasaki in December 2015. She vanished on the morning of March 24 while going to her school, about 600 meters away. The body was found two days later near a river about 10 km from the school, leading police to believe she was abducted immediately after she left home.
The man’s two cars were seized as potential evidence, the police said.
The arrest of Shibuya, who had taken over as head of the school parents’ association last year, left the local community in shock.
A woman whose daughter attends the same elementary school in Matsudo said: “I can’t get rid of my goose bumps. I can’t trust anyone anymore. I have to protect my daughter with my own hands.”
“It gives me the chills,” a resident in his 40s said.
The father of an elementary school student who lives nearby said he suspected nothing amiss.
“He was an energetic man with a big voice, who was willing to watch over children on the streets. There was nothing dubious about him,” he said.
A neighbor in her 40s said she had a good impression of the suspect because he always greeted her. “I thought he was worried because he also has a small child,” she said.
“It is rare for a man to represent the association, and everyone was counting on him,” said Maki Eguchi, 48, who heard Shibuya address the association’s meeting in 2016. “He said he would help protect the safety of children and improve their academic abilities. He seemed like he was thinking seriously about children and making the school better.”