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Massacre suspect detailed murder plan in letter to lower house speaker

(Mainichi)

SAGAMIHARA, Kanagawa -- As the details of the murder of 19 residents at a care facility for the intellectually disabled here on early July 26 gradually come to light, the possibility that the suspect carried out the crime according to plans he'd outlined in a letter to the House of Representatives speaker earlier this year has become increasingly likely.

Satoshi Uematsu, 26, a resident of Midori Ward in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, killed 19 residents and injured 26 others at nearby Tsukui Yamayuri En, a facility for disabled people where he had, until recently, been a staff member.

As it turns out, on Feb. 14 this year, Uematsu had visited the official residence of the speaker of the House of Representatives in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward with a letter he had written to the speaker, but residence staff refused to accept the note. Uematsu visited the residence again the following day, and after a consultation between a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer who was on call as a guard and residence staff, the letter was accepted. The MPD then alerted Kanagawa Prefectural Police about the letter and its contents.

The letter was handwritten, and included statements such as "I can eliminate a total of 470 people with disabilities," and named two target facilities, one of which was Tsukui Yamayuri En. The letter also noted that "the mission will be carried out during the night shift, when there are few staff," "I will prevent staff from moving or making contact with the outside world by tying them up with cable ties," and "I will turn myself in after the elimination."

On Feb. 18, when Uematsu was still a staff member at Tsukui Yamayuri En, he stated that "People with multiple disabilities have no reason to live, so they should be euthanized," prompting facility officials to consult with prefectural police. When police met with Uematsu at the facility on the following day, they determined that he posed a danger to others, and contacted the Sagamihara Municipal Government, which has the authority to forcibly hospitalize residents based on the Mental Health Act. That same day, the Sagamihara local government ordered Uematsu's emergency hospitalization, and by Feb. 22, two designated physicians had diagnosed him as having "cannabis psychosis" and "paranoid disorder." This led to Uematsu's official compulsory hospitalization.

Though by Feb. 22, Uematsu's urine samples had tested positive for marijuana, the designated physicians, did not notify prefectural police under the belief that improvement of Uematsu's symptoms was of the utmost priority. On March 2, the physician judged that Uematsu no longer posed a threat to others, and the Sagamihara Municipal Government allowed him to be discharged. When Uematsu was involuntarily committed to the hospital on Feb. 19, he'd officially tendered his resignation "for personal reasons" from the care facility where he'd been working.

Emergency vehicles and workers are seen at the residential care facility Tsukui Yamayuri En in Midori Ward, Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, where 19 people were killed and 26 injured on July 26, 2016. (Mainichi)

After Uematsu was discharged from the hospital, Kanagawa Prefectural Police visited his home only to find that he was not there. Police confirmed with Uematsu's parents that he had returned to his residence, and asked that they keep police abreast of his behavior and actions. In April, Tsukui Yamayuri En increased the number of security cameras on its premises by 16 based on suggestions from prefectural police.

According to the Sagamihara Fire Bureau, nine men between the ages of 41 and 67, and 10 women between the ages of 19 and 70 died in the rampage. At least one staff member who was at the facility at the time of the attack told prefectural police that they had been bound by Uematsu, and since cable ties were discovered in the car Uematsu drove to the Tsukui Police Station when he turned himself in, there's a likelihood that such ties were used in the crime. At the time of the killings, eight staff on the night shift and one part-time security guard were at the facility.

Investigative headquarters on July 27 switched one of the charges against Uematsu from attempted murder to murder and sent the suspect to the Yokohama District Public Prosecutors Office.Investigators also raided his home.

According to investigative sources, during questioning on the night of July 26, Uematsu expressed his apologies to the bereaved family members of those he is suspected of killing, saying, "I apologize to the families for forcing a sudden farewell on them." Meanwhile, however, he has not expressed any remorse for the facility residents that he allegedly killed and injured. Rather, he is said to be giving testimony that affirms his actions in the pre-dawn hours of July 26.

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