National / Crime & Legal

Fukuoka cop sentenced to death for murder of wife and kids, despite lack of hard evidence

Kyodo

A court sentenced a former policeman to death Friday for choking his wife and two children to death at their home in Fukuoka Prefecture in June 2017 in a case devoid of confessions or hard evidence.

Mitsuru Nakata, 41, denied the allegations at the time of his arrest and throughout his lay judge trial at the Fukuoka District Court while prosecutors sought the death penalty.

Presiding Judge Toshihiro Shibata said the court took into account the social impact of the “shocking crime” in his ruling.

In the absence of witness accounts or a confession, prosecutors pointed to the couple’s strained relationship as the defendant’s motive, and said the possibility of an intruder could be ruled out based on police investigations and evidence, including security camera footage near their home.

Prosecutors also said Nakata was at home and awake at the time the victims died and that an injury on his arm was believed to be a defensive wound, an assertion Nakata’s defense team rebutted.

According to the ruling, Nakata, then a sergeant with the Fukuoka Prefectural Police, strangled his wife, Yukiko, 38, son Ryosuke, 9, and daughter Miyu, 6, at home sometime between late night on June 5, 2017, and the following morning.

The bodies were discovered by his wife’s sister, who visited on the morning of June 6 after Nakata left for work.

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