National / Crime & Legal

Death penalty sought for man accused of killing Osaka teens in 2015


Prosecutors on Wednesday demanded the death penalty for a man accused of killing two junior high school children in Osaka in 2015.

During the trial at the Osaka District Court, prosecutors said Koji Yamada, 48, murdered by suffocation 12-year-old Ryoto Hoshino and 13-year-old Natsumi Hirata with “evident” intent. Yamada has denied intending to kill Hirata and says Hoshino died after experiencing a health problem.

“It was evident that the defendant choked the two with an intent to kill,” a prosecutor said, claiming that Yamada did so as a result of an incident involving Hoshino and later to silence Hirata, despite the alleged killer having had no apparent relationship with either child.

The prosecutors said bruising found on Hirata’s neck proved the act of choking, and other injuries on her body showed the extent of Yamada’s “cruel and violent acts.”

They also denied the defense team’s claim that Hoshino died as a result of a health problem, citing security camera footage that showed the boy walking through a shopping mall shortly before his death.

Arguing that Yamada’s mental state was not impaired at the time, the prosecutors said a capital sentence is unavoidable as the accused “showed no regard for life … killing both teens in one day.”

Two lawyers representing the victims’ families also called for the death penalty at the trial, saying Yamada “has not shown remorse.”

Yamada’s defense counsel admitted that the accused was involved in the death of Hirata, but claimed he should have been charged with causing injury resulting in death rather than murder.

The defense team also argued that as Hoshino died of a health problem, Yamada should have been charged with failure to offer necessary care.

According to the indictment, Yamada choked Hirata and Hoshino to death somewhere in or near Osaka Prefecture around Aug. 13, 2015.

Prosecutors said during the trial that Yamada met the teens for the first time at a deli in Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture, on the morning of Aug. 13, and lured them into a car. He then headed to the city of Kashiwara in the same prefecture.

Hirata’s body was found at a parking lot in the Osaka Prefecture city of Takatsuki soon after the two went missing, and the partially skeletal remains of Hoshino were discovered a week later in the mountains in Kashiwara. Parts of both bodies were found bound with adhesive tape.

The two children, who attended the same city-run junior high school, went missing after spending hours together at a shopping arcade.