3 teens held in Kawasaki boy's murder

3 teens held in Kawasaki boy's murder
School children praying for their murdered friend Ryota Uemura at a riverside area in Kawasaki, suburban Tokyo

KAWASAKI, Japan - Three teenagers were arrested Friday over the murder of a 13-year-old boy whose body was found along a riverside in Kawasaki earlier this month.

A 18-year-old boy and two 17-year-old boys were arrested on suspicion of having conspired to kill Ryota Uemura, a first-year middle school student, on a riverside beside the Tamagawa river in the city's Kawasaki Ward at about 2 a.m. on Feb. 20. The three are members of a group of boys with whom Uemura associated.

The 18-year-old, a leader of the group, was quoted by police as saying, "I don't want to say anything about that." But he denied his involvement.

Two other boys arrested also denied their involvement in the murder, with one telling investigators: "I didn't kill [Uemura]. I was just nearby."

Before the 18-year-old boy was questioned by the police, a lawyer for the boy told the police, "He was at home when the incident occurred."

According to investigative sources, however, one of the 17-year-olds told the investigators that he saw the 18-year-old stab Uemura in the neck with a knife.

The Kanagawa prefectural police plans to send the three to prosecutors on Saturday.

Footage recorded by a security camera installed near the crime scene shows several people, including one believed to be Uemura. The police identified the three based on the footage and other leads.

After investigating records on the Line smartphone messaging app used by Uemura, the police also found that a member of the group had sent a message to Uemura to come out on the night of Feb. 19 through Line.

Two of the three boys agreed to voluntarily undergo police questioning Thursday night while the 18-year-old boy, accompanied by a lawyer, came to the Kawasaki Police Station on Friday morning.

After Uemura stopped attending school in January, his classmates and others repeatedly saw him with several members of the group, including the three boys.

Uemura's body was found naked near tall bushes on the riverside. There was a puddle of blood on a concrete revetment several dozen meters away, and the blade of a cutter, believed to be one of the weapons used in the murder, was found in the blood.

Uemura had a deep cut on his neck that was made with a sharp blade. He also sustained cuts, believed to have been made with a cutter, on his face and arms.

An autopsy showed the cause of his death was hemorrhagic shock.

A trace of his blood was found rubbed on a nearby steel fence. The police suspect a perpetrator attempted to wipe Uemura's blood away.

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