Japan’s ‘Twitter Killer’ Sentenced to Death After 2017 Serial Murders

On Tuesday the Tokyo District Court sentenced Japan’s “Twitter Killer” to death for his 2017 serial murders of nine individuals in the Kanagawa city of Zama, just southwest of Tokyo. 

Takahiro Shiraishi, now 30, was arrested in 2017 in connection to the disappearance of a 23-year-old Tokyo woman, according to the Japan Times. The woman posted suicidal notes on Twitter. Reports then say Shiraishi, who’s Twitter handle essentially translates to “hangman,” reached out via direct message and said he could assist in her death. After luring her into his apartment, Shiraishi strangled the victim to death with a rope and sexually assaulted her. In total, he killed eight women, all of whom were sexually assaulted, and one man, according to The Asahi Shimbun

Authorities found dismembered body parts from all nine victims and bones scraped clean of flesh within coolers and boxes in Shiraishi’s Zama residence. His victims were aged 15 to 26 and were from Tokyo and four other nearby prefectures. The serial killer’s spree allegedly lasted from August to October 2017. 

Tokyo District Court’s Tachikawa branch handed down the sentencing after Shiraishi plead guilty to the murder charges. Presiding Judge Naokuni Yano called the killer’s actions “extremely vicious in crime history,” and said society should take caution with how embedded social media has become in day-to-day life, the Japan Times reported.  

The trial was focused on the defense’s argument that victims had consented to be killed because of the exchange each had with Shiraishi on Twitter. However, Shiraishi said in testimony the victims struggled when he was strangling them. The defense tried to blame this on “conditional reflexes,” but prosecutors, and in turn the court, said the claim held no merit given Shiraishi’s testimony. 

In addition, the defense tried to argue that Shiraishi was mentally unfit to stand trial. This claim was negated after he went through a five-month psychiatric screening prior to his indictment in 2018, The Japan Times reported. 

Shiraishi will be placed on death row awaiting his execution date. 

Kama City officials did not respond immediately for comment.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available. Call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone now or text START to 741741 to message with the Crisis Text Line.

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