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Niigata: Man, 54, accused of murdering associate; also suspected of arson

The corpse of Mitsunori Honma was found after a fire broke out at his residence in Niigata City on February 5 (Twitter)

NIIGATA (TR) – Niigata Prefectural Police on Friday arrested a 54-year-old man over the strangulation of a male associate at the victim’s residence in Niigata City last month, reports Kyodo News (Mar. 13).

Between around 2:30 a.m. on February 4 and 8:00 a.m. the next day, Yoshiharu Sato allegedly strangled Mitsunori Honma, the 49-year-old head of a chauffeur service, at the victim’s residence in Kita Ward. He also allegedly stole about 120,000 yen in cash.

Police did not reveal whether the suspect admits to the allegations.

The body of Honma was discovered after a fire broke out at the same residence on the morning of February 5. After the fire was extinguished, emergency personnel found Honma’s body in the living room.

The results of an autopsy showed that Honma died as a result of suffocation from pressure applied to the neck.

Yoshiharu Sato (Twitter)

No signs of smoke in Honma’s respiratory tract

When the body of Honma was found on his first-floor living room, an electrical cord was around his neck and his head had experienced severe trauma.

Since there were no signs of smoke in Honma’s respiratory tract, he died before the outbreak of the fire, the results of the autopsy said.

Police are now investigating whether to further accuse Sato of arson.

Sato, a resident of Niigata City’s Higashi Ward, started working part-time Honma’s transport firm last October.

On the night of February 12, police responded to a distress call made by a woman. Officers arriving at the scene found Honma to be inside a vehicle and in possession of a knife. He was subsequently arrested for violating the Swords and Firearms Control Law.