Suspects fear reprisals, cover for cultists in woman’s gang-bashing death

NAGANO — Four related members of holy water cult Kigenkai who were arrested in connection with the fatal gang bashing of a sushi restaurant owner fear reprisals and may be covering up the involvement of other cultists in the elderly woman’s death, police said Tuesday.

Komoro Police Station investigators suspect the four relatives of 63-year-old sushi restaurant owner Motoko Okuno, who were sent to prosecutors on suspicion of causing her death, may be keeping quiet about other Kigenkai cultists’ roles in the alleged attack.

It is believed the assault on Okuno was instigated by the cult’s matriarch and another 21 women members of the religious group have already been arrested in connection with the case.

Police said Okuno was fatally gang-bashed at Kigenkai headquarters in Komoro, Nagano Prefecture, on the night of Sept. 24 and into the early hours of the following morning. Her 35-year-old husband, Kazuhiro, and 37-year-old daughter, Kuriko Mori, were indicted by prosecutors for inflicting bodily injury causing death. Another daughter, Michiko, 26, and her husband, Yuji Ike, 30, have been arrested for inflicting bodily injury resulting in death and also face the additional charge of concealing evidence.

Police said the four had talked amongst themselves to decide what to tell investigators about Okuno’s death so that only they took the blame and no other cultists became involved.

Police added that Michiko and Yuji Ike had turned tables and chairs over in Okuno’s restaurant to make it look as though she had been beaten there and not at the cult’s lair.

Police initially charged the four with inflicting bodily injury, but updated the charge to inflicting bodily injury resulting in death and sent them to the prosecutors. However, the suspects gave conflicting statements. When investigators pursued some of these differences, one of the suspects — it is not known who — hinted that another cultist had been involved in the beating at the Kigenkai den. The suspect said they feared other cultists would kill them if they told the police exactly what had gone on when Okuno died.

Police feel the four suspects may continue to stick up for other cultists. The investigation into the case continues.

Kigenkai was founded in October 1970. Sources close to the group said it has about 400 followers across the country.

The group reportedly sought offerings from followers, and distributed water it called kigensui, claiming that it would cure incurable diseases.

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Mainichi Daily News, Japan
Oct. 16, 2007

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This post was last updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2007 at 12:25 AM, Central European Time (CET)