SAITAMA (TR) – On the afternoon of August 19, Shinji Minato allegedly beat a 32-year-old male company employee in the right shoulder with a metal baton on a road in Kawaguchi City. He also slashed the victim’s throat with a knife.
According to police, the victim was transported to a hospital in a conscious state with light injuries.
At the time of the arrest of Minato, 45, news outlets provided — as is very common — little information about him, merely saying that he is unemployed. However, quite a bit is known about him: He was one of four youths convicted in the killing of Junko Furuta, 17, whose corpse was found packed in concrete inside an oil drum dumped in Koto Ward in 1989, reports Josei Seven (Sept. 13).
In November, 1988, Minato (then using the first name Nobuharu) and Hiroshi Miyano (now using the surname Yokoyama), worked together to abduct Furuta as she commuted home from a part-time job. That same month, her family reported her missing with police.
Thereafter, Minato and Miyano, then aged 15 and 18, respectively, and two other youths took her to a residence in the Ayase area of Adachi Ward where they repeatedly raped, sodomized and tortured her over a 44-day period.
On January 4, 1989, Furuta died after the youths set her on fire. The boys then wrapped her body in blankets and packed it in an oil drum along with concrete. The drum was then dumped at what is today Wakase Park.
After Miyano and one other youth, Jo Ogura, then 17, were arrested in another rape case, police uncovered their involvement in the disappearance of Furuta. During questioning, Miyano told police where to find her body.
A court later handed the youths differing prison sentences: Minato, between five and nine years; Ogura, between five and 10 years; and Miyano 20 years. The fourth youth, Yasushi Watanabe, then 16, received a term of between five and seven years.
Typically, the name of a juvenile defendant is not released publicly. However, Shukan Bunshun released the names in the Furuta case in its April 20, 1989 issue.
Second time around
Minato is the third of the four convicted killers to be arrested again. Five years after his release from prison in 1999, Ogura was arrested for assaulting and confining the manager of a “snack” hostess club. He was sentenced to a four-year term, which he completed in 2009.
After Miyano was released from prison in 2009, he changed his name to Yokoyama. Four years later, he was arrested on suspicion of fraud. However, he was not prosecuted after he remained silent after his arrest. A journalist tells Josei Seven that he is currently a regular at a kickboxing gym.
“He’s always with members of his posse, taking them to barbecue parties and hostess clubs,” says the source. “He speeds around in a BMW and sports high-end clothing. He’s open about his ties to organized crime and multi-level marketing schemes that make him money.”
Watanabe is the only one of the four to avoid further trouble with the law. According to the magazine, he has dropped under the radar since his release from prison in 1996, now apparently living with his mother.
Regarding Minato, Saitama police accused him of attempted murder. “I certainly stabbed and beat him, but I did not intend to kill him,” the suspect was quoted in partially denying the allegations upon his arrest.
Based on the investigation, police believe that the incident took place after the suspect and victim, who were not acquainted, got into a vehicle-related dispute, police said.
Minato also told police that he keeps the knife and baton inside his vehicle “for self-protection.”
The criminal proceedings were conducted with the defendants considered as juveniles. The sentences that were subsequently handed down were widely viewed as lenient.
An article appearing in Shukan Shincho (Sept. 6) describes the subsequent arrests of the three convicted killers as a “defeat of the juvenile law.” A sub-headline in the article notes that no media outlets, print or television, reported on Minato being one of the four murderers.