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Court decides on jail term in Tochigi girl’s 2005 murder

Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Tokyo High Court on Friday gave a 36-year-old man an indefinite prison sentence for killing a 7-year-old girl in 2005 soon after she disappeared in Tochigi Prefecture.

Presiding Judge Toshiaki Fujii scrapped a district court ruling that also gave the man, Takuya Katsumata, the same term, pointing to a law violation in judicial procedures related to the recognition of criminal facts based on audio and video records of interrogations.

Fujii then sentenced the man to an indefinite term again. “Through a comprehensive examination of the circumstantial evidence, it can be determined that the man committed the crime,” Fujii said.

The ruling said Katsumata stabbed the girl, Yuki Yoshida, in the chest many times in Tochigi Prefecture, neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture or a nearby place sometime between 2:38 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2005, and around 4 a.m. on the following day.

Of his confessions made to interrogators, the one acknowledging the murder can be trusted, the judge said, rejecting Katsumata’s claim of innocence.

The ruling said that if Katsumata were not the offender, it would be impossible to explain why he wrote an apologetic letter to his mother soon after his first confession.

Records showing that his vehicle headed toward the site where the girl’s body was abandoned in the early hours of the day after she was kidnapped also support to some extent the view that he was the offender, according to the ruling.

The judge rejected a claim by the defense side that a third person’s DNA detected on adhesive tape attached to the girl’s body is that of the real culprit, noting the possibility that it was added during work to find fingerprints.

No direct evidence linking the man to the murder has been found except the confession made by Katsumata during police investigations. The focus of the trial was how the high court would evaluate the credibility of his confessions.

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