• Kyodo


The Niigata District Court on Wednesday sentenced a 25-year-old man to life in prison for the sexual assault and murder of a 7-year-old schoolgirl last year.

According to the ruling, Haruka Kobayashi intentionally hit the second-grader with his car while she was on her way home from school on May 7 last year in the city of Niigata, molested her in his car and then strangled her to death before abandoning her body on a railway track so it would appear that she had been hit and killed by a train.

The court noted the crime “indiscriminately targeted a vulnerable person” and described it as “vicious.”

Presiding Judge Takeshi Yamazaki said Kobayashi did not intend to kill the girl initially, but he was “aware that (strangling her) carried a high risk of killing her.”

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty, maintaining the accused had “made light of (the girl’s) life.”

The defense had called for a maximum of 10 years in prison, arguing Kobayashi, who was arrested on May 14, 2018, did not intend to kill the girl and that he strangled her to make her faint. They also denied the molestation allegation, saying the police coerced him into admitting to the charge.

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