Head of Chiba parents’ association held in Vietnamese girl’s slaying

A 46-year-old man was arrested Friday in connection with the murder of a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl whose body was found last month near a drainage ditch in Chiba Prefecture, investigative sources said.

Yasumasa Shibuya, who claims to work in the property leasing business, was arrested for allegedly dumping the victim’s body. The man’s DNA matched a sample police collected at the crime scene, the sources said.

In a shocking revelation, the local education board revealed that Shibuya was the head of the parents’ association of the girl’s elementary school.

Residents said he took turns with other parents to act as crossing guards, standing at roads in school zones to protect the children.

The houses of the victim and the suspect are about 300 meters apart.

“I was waiting for news of the suspect’s arrest,” the girl’s father Le Anh Hao, who temporarily returned to Vietnam for her funeral, said over the phone. But he added, “I don’t feel at ease because I don’t know who the suspect is.”

According to the Chiba Prefectural Police, the man was expected to be handed to prosecutors on Saturday and is exercising his right to remain silent.

They said Shibuya is the only suspect in the kidnapping and murder.

The father of an elementary school student who lives nearby was shocked to learn of the man’s arrest.

“He was an energetic man with a big voice, who was willing to watch over children on the streets. There was nothing dubious about him,” he said.

A neighbor in her 40s said she had a good impression of the suspect because he always greeted her. “I thought he was worried because he also has a small child,” she said.

Third-grader Le Thi Nhat Linh’s naked body was discovered by police in a grassy field in nearby Abiko on the morning of March 26. Her body was likely dumped after she was strangled elsewhere, the police believe, noting that they found no signs of a struggle.

Linh had been living with her parents and younger brother in Matsudo since moving from Kawasaki in December 2015. She disappeared on the morning of March 24 while going to her school, which is about 600 meters away. The body was found two days later near a river about 10 km from the school, leading police to believe she was abducted immediately after she left home.

The suspects’ two cars have seized as potential evidence, the police said.

Shibuya took over as head of the parents’ association last year.

“It is rare for a man to represent the association, and everyone was counting on him,” said Maki Eguchi, 48, who heard Shibuya address the association’s meeting in 2016. “He said he would help protect the safety of children and improve their academic abilities. He seemed like he was thinking seriously about children and making the school better.”

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