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Japan Man Held in 9-Year Kidnap

February 11, 2000 GMT

TOKYO (AP) _ A man accused of abducting a girl off the street and keeping her in his bedroom for nine years had bound her legs and threatened to abandon her in the mountains if she tried to flee, police and news reports said Friday.

Nobuyuki Sato, 37, was arrested Friday on suspicion of abducting Fusako Sano, now 19, and imprisoning her in his second-floor bedroom, said a police spokesman who identified himself only by his last name, Mizuno.

Sato admitted most of the charges against him, the spokesman said. In 1990, he was driving around the city of Sanjo, about 160 miles northwest of Tokyo in Niigata prefecture, when he spotted the girl and pulled her into his car, national broadcaster NHK said, citing his deposition.

Sano, a 9-year-old fourth grader at the time, was last seen watching a baseball game in a schoolyard.

During the next nine years, Sano has said, she never ventured from the second story of her captor’s house in a town outside Sanjo.

For the first three months of her captivity, Sano was bound hand and foot with tape and threatened with abandonment, NHK and Kyodo News agency reported. And as time passed, Sano became too afraid to attempt an escape, she has said.

Police also were questioning Sato’s mother, who also lived in the house, Mizuno said.

The mother reportedly has said she did not know about her son’s captive. Media reports said the son was violent and that she was afraid to go up to the second floor.

But police now say they believe that Sato’s mother prepared meals for both the man and his captive, Kyodo quoted police as saying. Mizuno refused to comment on the report.

Sato has a troubled history. Neighbors said he became increasingly violent after his father died in 1989. They saw him break doors and windows in the family house, and noticed that his mother once had a black eye, NHK said.

He was arrested in 1989 for trying to kidnap another girl and was on probation when Sano disappeared, but police apparently never investigated him.

Years later, on Jan. 28, when police answered a call about a man _ Sato _ causing a disturbance at a hospital, Sano approached the officers and identified herself.

Sato was hospitalized for mental instability and violent behavior that day and released on Friday.

The young woman was hospitalized with post-traumatic stress disorder, including nightmares, and weakened leg muscles, Kyodo quoted police as saying.

Police arrested Sato after doctors said Friday that he was mentally competent to answer investigators’ questions, Mizuno said.

If he is convicted, any sentence would be determined by a court, Mizuno said.

Police believe Sato is able to assume criminal responsibility because he was mentally fit at the time of the abduction, citing the fact that he had a driver’s license and was betting on horses, Kyodo reported.