Saitama murder suspect was previously arrested for damaging victims’ car

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Murder suspect Jun Saito leaves the Sayama Police Station where he had been detained in Sayama, Saitama Prefecture, on Tuesday.

SAITAMA — The 40-year-old suspect in the murder of three people in Hanno, Saitama Prefecture, was previously arrested three times for damaging the victims’ car on multiple occasions, the Saitama prefectural police said Tuesday.

The police are investigating the possibility that the suspect had been persistently targeting the victims for some time.

Sixty nine-year-old American citizen William Ross Bishop Jr., his 68-year-old wife Izumi Morita and their 32-year-old daughter Sophianna Megumi Morita, who was visiting her parents’ home in Hanno at the time of the incident, were found dead on the ground of the couple’s house on the morning of Christmas Day. Jun Saito, an unemployed man who lives near the crime scene, was sent to prosecutors Tuesday on a charge of murdering Bishop.

The police arrested Saito three times in January and February 2022 for having damaged the couple’s car multiple times since the summer of 2021. At the time, the couple said they had no idea why they were being targeted.

Autopsies found that Izumi died of hemorrhagic shock resulting from a neck injury, Megumi died of blood loss from an injury on the left side of her neck, and Bishop died of a spinal cord injury, according to the police. All three were believed to have suffered severe blows to the head and neck with a blunt object.

A security camera near the scene showed a man beating a victim with a blunt object. Combined with eyewitness reports from local residents, the footage suggests the crime was committed in a short period of time.

A senior prefectural police official said the couple had their car and the gate of their house damaged on six occasions between August and December of last year, leading to an investigation that raised Saito as a suspect and a police search of Saito’s home on suspicion of destruction of property in December. While the police were not able to obtain sufficient evidence at the time, in January of this year an investigator watching the couple’s house saw Saito throwing rocks toward the house, and arrested him on suspicion of destruction of property.

Later, the police determined that Saito was also responsible for two other cases of damage to the couple’s property last year and re-arrested him twice by February on the same charge. Saito at that time refused to give a statement to the investigators, and all three cases were dropped.

He has also been refusing to give a statement about the latest case, saying, “I don’t want to say anything.”

Saito lives alone in a detached house about 60 meters away from the couple’s home. “I got the impression that he did not come out of his house very often, and the grass in his yard had grown long,” a woman who had seen him recently said.

Former film director

Saito was a film director about 15 years ago and had been selected at a film festival in Osaka to receive a grant for young directors.

According to several people, including a director for the festival, Saito had been working on a film titled “Gift,” featuring a person infected with HIV, along with a staff of about 10 people for some two months. The team finished shooting but then lost contact with Saito during the editing process, and the film was never completed.

The festival director said that he had visited Saito’s home in Hanno twice for discussions.

“He told me he was living in a house owned by his parents,” the man said. “He had a peacefulness to him. He was a young man with a future and talent.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Investigators search the house of murder suspect Jun Saito in Hanno, Saitama Prefecture, on Wednesday.