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Young Tokyo man pleads guilty to murdering pregnant classmate in 2017

TOKYO -- A 19-year-old man pleaded guilty to murdering his pregnant classmate last year after the victim asked the defendant to kill her, during the first hearing of his lay judge trial at the Tokyo District Court on Aug. 29.

The man, whose name is being withheld because he was a minor at the time of the incident, told the hearing that the prosecution's charge, that he strangled his then 17-year-old girlfriend, Mai Sato, at her apartment in Tokyo's Taito Ward on May 3, 2017, and set fire to her apartment the following morning, was correct.

According to the indictment and the prosecution's initial statement, the defendant was told by the victim, then a student at a high school in Tokyo, that she was pregnant, and she wanted him to kill her because the situation was "unbearable." The youth then tied up Sato's hands with a bandana and strangled her. He later went home but returned to the crime scene the next morning, entered the victim's room through a window, and set fire to the apartment using a lighter to make it seem as though the girl died from a fire.

Meanwhile, the defendant's lawyers explained that the young man had unsuccessfully tried to die with the victim. They argued that the defendant should be subject not to criminal punishment, but placed in protective custody instead, such as time in a juvenile correctional facility, and asked the court to transfer the case to a family court, which often handles criminal cases involving minors.

The case came to light because of the fire, and the defendant was arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department on murder charges. He underwent a psychological evaluation to determine his capacity to assume criminal responsibility. He was first sent to the Tokyo Family Court in October 2017 by prosecutors, but the court referred him back to prosecutors in November. The prosecution indicted him the same month to the Tokyo District Court on charges of commissioned murder and arson on an inhabited building.

(Japanese original by Masanori Makita and Akira Hattori, City News Department)

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