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Defense for Peruvian man indicted over Saitama Pref. murders enters no plea

Investigators examine the home of Minoru and Misae Tasaki, in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture on Sept. 17, 2015. (Mainichi)

SAITAMA -- The defense for a Peruvian national indicted over the murders of six people including two elementary school children in Saitama Prefecture in 2015 entered no plea as his citizen-judge trial opened in the Saitama District Court on Jan. 26.

On trial over the September 2015 murders in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, is Vayron Jonathan Nakada Ludena, 32.

"The defendant is unable to talk about the incident. We will withhold from stating an opinion on all charges, and if a crime is constituted, we plan to argue that the defendant is mentally incompetent and is not guilty," Nakada's attorney told the court.

In their opening statement, public prosecutors said that Nakada had a persecution complex and was under the delusion that he was being tracked, but that he did not have hallucinations or hear voices in his head. They pointed out that he fled from Kumagaya Police Station, leaving money and other items behind, when he was there for voluntary questioning, and thus had a motive for entering the victims' homes afterward. They added that he took actions to conceal his crimes, hiding the victims' bodies where they couldn't easily be found, and was able to tell right from wrong. Prosecutors thus argued that he was fully able to take responsibility for his actions.

According to the indictment and other sources, Nakada fled from Kumagaya Police Station while he was there for voluntary questioning on Sept. 13, 2015. Between Sept. 14 and 16, he then allegedly broke into three homes to steal money and murdered Minoru Tasaki, 55, Tasaki's wife Misae, 53, Kazuyo Shiraishi, 84, and 41-year-old Miwako Kato and her two daughters, Misaki, aged 10, and Haruka, aged 7.

After his arrest, Nakada told investigators that he wasn't responsible for the killings. The Saitama District Public Prosecutors Office charged him over the murders after a psychiatric evaluation lasting five months found that he had no mental ailments. However, a subsequent mental evaluation by the court requested by his defense found that he had schizophrenia and committed the crimes while delusional. The focus of the trial is whether Nakada is mentally competent to be held responsible for his actions. A ruling on the case is expected on March 9, after 12 hearings.

On Jan. 26, Nakada entered the court wearing a black sweatshirt. When the presiding judge asked him to state his name and other information, he held a hand over the earpiece that had been provided to him for interpretation, looked down, and stayed quiet for several minutes. He then asked, "Can we do this from the start again?" and provided his details.

When questioned about the allegations against him, he gave a non sequitur response, saying, "I put a cup on my head."

Sources close to the case say that communication with the defendant remains difficult, and citizen judges are therefore likely to have a hard time deciding on his capacity to take criminal responsibility.

Nakada came to Japan over 10 years ago, and worked at food factories around the country. Two days before the killings, on Sept. 12, 2015, he left his job at a food factory in Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture. The next day, a fire department branch office in Kumagaya reported to police that there was a foreigner there asking for the police to be called, and Nakada subsequently went to Kumagaya Police Station on a voluntary basis. However, he fled while police weren't looking and allegedly went on to commit the crimes.

Before the crimes, Nakada had made unclear statements to others around him, saying, "I'm going to be killed by someone," and, "I'm being followed by a man in a suit."

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