National / Crime & Legal

Inmate arrested after confessing to strangling 9-year-old Okayama girl found stabbed to death in 2004

Kyodo

A man already jailed twice for violent crimes against children, including the attempted murder of a high school girl in 2015, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of killing a 9-year-old girl in 2004 in central Japan.

Kunihiko Katsuta, 39, had admitted to strangling Yukiko Tsutsushio, a third-grade elementary school pupil in Tsuyama, Okayama Prefecture, but denied having intended to kill the girl and also denied stabbing her, police said.

Local police believe Katsuta choked and stabbed her to death at her home between 3:15 p.m. and 3:35 p.m. on Sept. 3, 2004. He is suspected of stabbing her multiple times with a knife, which is yet to be found.

Katsuta told investigators he had never met the girl before the incident, according to the police.

The police began questioning Katsuta in September when he emerged as a potential suspect after they expanded the search area and scrutinized crimes showing similar characteristics.

Earlier Wednesday, police transferred Katsuta from a prison in Okayama Prefecture to a police cell for questioning. They also raided his home in Kakogawa, in neighboring Hyogo Prefecture, for clues as to his motive.

Tsutsushio was found bleeding on the floor of her home by her sister, who returned home at about 3:35 p.m. on the day of the incident in 2004.

She was taken to hospital with multiple injuries to her chest and abdomen, but was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

“We have been just stunned. Ever since the incident, our family has been in deep sorrow that cannot be described by words,” the family of the girl said in a statement after police issued the arrest warrant on Tuesday.

“All we can do is just keep watching the investigation as it develops,” a family spokesperson added.

Katsuta was arrested in May 2015 by Hyogo Prefectural Police on suspicion of stabbing a junior high school girl in the stomach with a knife on a street in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture.

At the initial trial, the Himeji branch of the Kobe District Court noted in its ruling that Katsuta had developed an interest in animation while in high school and a taste for seeing girls’ shirts soaked in blood, which later grew into an urge to stab girls in the abdomen.

The Osaka High Court subsequently sentenced him in 2016 to a 10-year prison term.

In 2010, Katsuta was sentenced to four years in prison for assaulting and injuring five people, including elementary and high school students.