The first court hearing of a 29-year-old suspect in the alleged robbery-murders of nine people at his apartment in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, is still a long way off, two years after the victims’ dismembered bodies were discovered.

The trial for the murders, which shocked the nation, is expected to include lay judges.

Pretrial conference procedures for narrowing down the points of dispute and evidence are still ongoing at the Tokyo District Court’s Tachikawa branch.

The suspect, Takahiro Shiraishi, was arrested on Oct. 31, 2017, a day after the bodies were found in his apartment. He was indicted in September 2018 after being served 10 arrest warrants on charges that include robbery, murder and forcible intercourse, and was given a psychiatric evaluation by public prosecutors.

The pretrial process began in April. Shiraishi appeared in the first four sessions, which ended on Oct. 7, but did not take part in the fifth one on Oct. 28.

The suspect allegedly lured nine people aged 15 to 26 to his apartment, choked them to death and dismembered and abandoned their bodies. He is believed to have become acquainted with the victims — eight of them women — via Twitter posts mainly related to suicide.

The points of dispute haven’t been decided yet, informed sources said. The defense is expected to raise questions about the suspect’s competence to accept criminal responsibility and has requested a second psychiatric exam.

The Tachikawa branch is debating whether a second evaluation should be conducted, given that the prosecution submitted a brief insisting another is not needed.

Disclosure of evidence by both sides has made little progress. Since the court decided to withhold the names and addresses of the victims at their families’ request, the prosecutors are still redacting interrogation records and other documents that might identify the victims.

“The first court hearing is still a long way off,” a senior prosecutor said.

Earlier in October, Shiraishi granted a request for an interview at the Tachikawa detention house, where he is being held.

Unshaven, with hair down to his chest, Shiraishi demanded money in return for answering questions about the case, including his motives, as he did in an interview a year ago.

“I’ll tell you if you take care of me,” he repeatedly said.

However, Shiraishi did respond to small talk.

“I’m doing weight training to relieve the boredom. I’m fine,” he said with a smile.

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