Tanabe Masaki Case Note: His original family name was Kawase Also known as the TOYOKAWA CHILD MURDER Case

JIADEP Note: One of the most heinous cases of modern times, a young man has his not guilty decision overturned and is sentenced to a long term for infanticide based on flimsy circumstantial evidence.


Truck driver arrested for killing crying child

Aichi Prefectural Police on Tuesday arrested a truck driver on suspicion of snatching a 22-month-old boy from a car and killing him because he was annoyed by the child's crying.

News photo
Masaki Kawase

Masaki Kawase, 36, allegedly kidnapped Sho Murase from the parking lot of a games arcade in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, in the early hours of July 28. The boy was found dead off the nearby coast several hours later.

Jun Murase, 26, a resident of Mito, Aichi Prefecture, took his son to the games arcade around 10 p.m. on July 27. Murase laid the child down to sleep on the back seat of the car shortly after midnight; he noticed his son was gone about an hour and 20 minutes later.

"I was sleeping in my car and got mad after I was woken up by the crying," Kawase was quoted as telling investigators.

According to police, Kawase said he heard the child crying and went to the car. The window on the passenger's side was open and the boy had his arms outstretched, the suspect was quoted as saying.

He then took the boy on a drive but finally lost his temper because he would not stop crying, and drove him 4 km to the coast where he threw him into the sea.

Police are still trying to ascertain why it took Kawase one hour to cover the 4 km.

After dumping the boy in the ocean, Kawase then allegedly drove back to the arcade parking lot.

According to Toyokawa police, Kawase has no fixed address and slept in his car. He used the arcade parking lot because it was close to his workplace and convenient for his early morning work hours but did not return on subsequent days, police said.

The boy was found floating off the Sawaki coast in the town of Mito at around 5:50 a.m. July 28, the police said.

Toyokawa police, acting on a missing-person report filed by the boy's father, searched the neighborhood and took down the registration numbers of the cars in the lot, including Kawase's.

Kawase initially told police investigators that he was in the car park on "company business." But when police discovered that he had made false statements, he admitted to the crime.

The Japan Times: Wednesday, April 16, 2003


2006/01/25 Man acquitted in boy's kidnap-murder
Man acquitted in boy's kidnap-murder
Only evidence was a confession the defense says was made under duress
Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006

NAGOYA (Kyodo) The Nagoya District Court acquitted a 38-year-old man Tuesday in the kidnap-slaying of a 22-month-old boy.

News photo
Masaki Kawase faces reporters Tuesday after the Nagoya District Court acquitted him in a baby's 2002 kidnap-murder.

Masaki Kawase stood accused of taking Sho Murase out of his father's car in a parking lot in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, on July 28, 2002, and hurling him from a pier into the sea, where he drowned.

Presiding Judge Shinichiro Ito ruled, however, that there was "reasonable doubt" in the case.

"No evidence, such as the boy's hair, has been found from the defendant's car, and it can be assumed the boy was not taken into it," the judge said


News photos:
Sho Murase

"There is no objective fact that points to Kawase as the perpetrator, nor did he reveal a secret" that only the perpetrator would know, Ito said.

Kawase maintained his innocence throughout the trial, which started July 17, 2003, saying he confessed once during intense police interrogation. Prosecutors had sought an 18-year prison term.

The judge acknowledged it was possible that investigators had pressured Kawase into confessing.

"I believe we conducted a proper as well as necessary investigation to the full extent," said Fumihiko Ishikawa, a senior Aichi Prefectural Police official in charge of criminal investigations.

After his release, Kawase said he is happy to have been cleared of the charges and that his two years and nine months in detention was long and difficult.

"I'm grateful that I'm innocent," he said.

Kawase was arrested in April 2003 after confessing to police but denied his guilt when interviewed by defense lawyers.

"I'm truly disappointed by the ruling," the victim's father, Jun Murase, 28, said after the ruling.

"It's hard to accept the ruling, but I also feel that investigators could have done more," said Murase, who was aware that Kawase's confession was the only evidence in the trial.

2007/07/06 Court reverses acquittal.

Court reverses acquittal. Man gets 17 years for throwing 22-month-old boy into sea 2007/07/06

NAGOYA — The Nagoya High Court sentenced a 40-year-old man Friday to 17 years in prison for abducting and killing a 22- month-old boy in July 2002, reversing a lower court acquittal. Based on a witness' account, Masaki Tanabe, a truck driver, confessed to abducting and killing the boy, Sho Murase, son of Jun Murase, 30, a corporate employee. But he then denied the accusation at the trial. Tanabe was indicted in May 2003 for allegedly taking Sho out of his father's car in a parking lot at a game arcade in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, early on July 28, 2002, and hurling him from a pier into the sea in the town of Mito. The child drowned. Prosecutors alleged that the defendant, who had been trying to sleep in his minivehicle at the auto park, became angry due to the constant crying sounds of the boy and took him out of his father's car through the open window. In the absence of material evidence, chiefly at issue during the trial was whether his confession was reliable. The district court acquitted him in January 2006 on grounds that prosecutors could not establish their claim that the defendant was guilty of the charges. In overturning the acquittal, the high court said the testimony of a witness who saw the car of the defendant at the scene of the abduction is trustworthy. (Kyodo News)


2011/July/25 Support Association Formed

The following article announces a support association for Tanabe. 豊川の幼児殺害:受刑者守る会結成  再審目指し活動 /愛知 毎日新聞 725()1110分配信

 豊川市で02年7月、村瀬翔ちゃん(当時1歳10カ月)がゲームセンター駐車場の車から連れ去られ、遺体で見つかった事件で、殺人罪で懲役17年の刑が確定した田辺(旧姓・河瀬)雅樹受刑者(44)の支援者らが24日、冤罪(えんざい)だとして「田辺さんを守る会」を結成した。今後、再審署名や現地調査などに取り組むとしている。  結成総会が市桜ケ丘ミュージアムで行われ、約70人が参加。主任弁護士の後藤昌弘さんが「再審に向けて準備しているが、事件は最初から物証がなく、再審のハードルは高い。みんなが『おかしい』と声を上げることが大切」と訴えた。  田辺受刑者は捜査段階で容疑を認めたが起訴後、無罪を主張した。1審は無罪を言い渡したが、2審で逆転有罪となり、最高裁は08年9月、上告を棄却、刑が確定した。【丸林康樹】