NAGOYA, JAPAN - Three men who are believed to have met through a so-called dark Web site for finding crime accomplices pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of murder and robbery.
The men are on trial for murder, robbery and other charges in connection with an incident in which they allegedly abducted, robbed and killed a 31-year-old woman in Nagoya.
The men, all of whom entered pleas at the first hearing of their trial at the Nagoya District Court, admitted to most of the accusations in the indictment, but said they would contend some charges, such as each defendant's degree of involvement in the crimes.
The three accused are Kenji Kawagishi, a 41-year-old unemployed man of no fixed address; Tsukasa Kanda, a 37-year-old former newspaper sales agent from Toyoake, Aichi Prefecture; and Yoshitomo Hori, 33, an unemployed man from Higashi Ward, Nagoya.
According to the indictment, the suspects abducted Rie Isogai, a contract employee from Chikusa Ward, Nagoya, when she was on her way home on the night of Aug. 24, 2007. They allegedly bundled her into a car and stole her money, bludgeoning her head with a hammer and strangling her with a rope in a parking lot in Aisai in the prefecture. After the killing, the men allegedly abandoned Isogai's body in the forests of Mizunami, Gifu Prefecture.
Kawagishi allegedly tried to sexually assault Isogai just before they killed her.
During their arraignment, the three claimed that the order of the events in the murder as outlined by prosecutors were incorrect.
According to their attorney, "We'll contend some points including the time when they plotted the alleged crime and the facts concerning how the murder took place."
In its opening statement, the prosecution said the three started meeting after Kanda posted a message saying, "I'm so poor that I want to rob someone" on a Web site called the "Dark Employment Agency."
On Aug. 21, three days before the crime, the trio allegedly met in Nagoya and plotted to assault a pachinko parlor customer.
However, they are believed to have changed the plan when Kanda suggested that they should rob a young woman instead.
Kanda allegedly said: "Let's target a young woman. We can kidnap and kill her in the end."
After abducting Isogai, they allegedly tried to find out her cash card PIN by threatening her with a kitchen knife, saying things such as, "This knife is blunt, so I'll need to stab you five or six times to kill you."
According to prosecutors, Isogai repeatedly pleaded for her life.
Eight pretrial summary procedures have been held since December. During these summary procedures points of contention were summed up, including disagreements over the degree of each defendant's involvement in the crime, and at which point they agreed on a plot to abduct and kill a woman.