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Japanese serial murder suspect says he would not appeal death penalty

This photo taken April 11, 2019, shows a court sign at the entrance of a building that houses the Tokyo district. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The suspect in a serial murder case in 2017 involving nine people who had expressed suicidal thoughts on Twitter told a Tokyo court on Wednesday he would not appeal his sentence even if given the death penalty.

    "I humbly admit my guilt and will accept the punishment," Takahiro Shiraishi, 30, told the Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Court in the last round of questioning by prosecutors in his trial.

    The defendant had earlier admitted to murdering, dismembering and storing the bodies of nine people at his apartment in Zama, southwest of Tokyo. The prosecutors will present their closing arguments on Thursday.

    Shiraishi also said in the lay judge trial, "I am very sorry for taking lives so easily" and apologized to the relatives of some of the victims with whom he had spent a relatively long time before killing them.

    Shiraishi pleaded guilty to all charges at his first court hearing in late September. He is also alleged to have stolen cash from the victims -- eight women and one man aged 15 to 26 -- and sexually assaulted all the females.

    He said on Wednesday he expects to receive the death penalty.

    His defense team, however, has taken a different stance and argued that Shiraishi killed the victims with their consent as they had expressed suicidal thoughts on social media, and therefore he was guilty only of the lesser charge of homicide with consent.

    Shiraishi is believed to have lured people who expressed suicidal thoughts on Twitter under his account name loosely translated as "Hangman" and invited them to his Zama apartment, saying he would help them die, according to investigative sources.

    According to the indictment, Shiraishi strangled and dismembered his victims from Tokyo and four other prefectures from August to October in 2017. Their bodies were discovered inside containers such as cooling boxes in his apartment in the Kanagawa Prefecture city.

    The court is scheduled to hand down a ruling on Shiraishi on Dec. 15.

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