Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods


Deadly Intent

Life was not all joy and enlightenment within the sect. Some followers, frustrated by the lack of promised change in their lives, began to rebel against the strict regimen. One young man decided that he wanted to leave and advised his instructors of his decision. Asahara was informed and summoned the 25-year-old to his private chambers. He told his errant disciple that Aum was a life-time commitment and anyone wishing to leave must be "mentally unstable and in need of guidance." Asahara determined that the man's inherent instability was caused by "heat within the head" and ordered that he be dunked repeatedly in near-freezing water. The man soon went into hypothermic shock and subsequently died.

The man's closest friend, Shuji Taguchi, was shocked that Asahara could be capable of such a violent act and began to voice his disapproval to other sect members. In February 1989, Taguchi was summoned to appear before Asahara to explain his criticisms of the cult. After listening to the man's complaints, Asahara ordered that the man undergo "conditioning, to clear his mind." Shuji, fearing that he would suffer the same fate as his friend, refused. He was then bound with ropes and led to a small cell where he was questioned intensively for several hours.

Finally, mentally and physically exhausted, he blurted out his hate and distrust for the sect in general and Asahara in particular. Asahara, upon hearing this admission, called a late meeting with Murai and six others to discuss Taguchis future. Asahara told his disciples that Taguchi could not be freed as he may come to the notice of the authorities; neither could he stay within the cult, as he would be a disruptive influence. He then spoke to them of poa, being "the elevation of one's soul to a higher plane." Asaharas intentions became clearer.

Murai was directed to return to the prisoner and give him one last chance to change his mind about leaving. "If he refuses," Asahara told him, "you know what you must do."

Murai did as he was told and confronted Taguchi one last time. Taguchi was scared but adamant, asking again if he could leave. In answer, four of the men restrained him while another blindfolded him and tied a rope around his neck and tightened it. Shuji struggled to free himself but was quickly overpowered. Finally one of the men took Shujis head in his hands and twisted it sharply to one side. Shuji Taguchi, whose only "crimes" were fear and dissatisfaction, slumped to the floor dead, from a broken neck.

His body was wrapped in a plastic sheet and taken to a courtyard where it was dumped in a drum and doused with gasoline. Shujis body was set afire and burned for several hours. Asahara inspected the remains and ordered that they be burned again until "only ashes remained."

The ghastly deed took many hours. When Asahara was satisfied with the result, he ordered the ashes to be dumped under some bushes. Several days later, Aum was contacted by Taguchis family who wished to speak to their son. They were told that he was involved in intensive training and could not be contacted. Several months later, the family received an anonymous message that read, "Aum Supreme Truth is a dangerous organization, many of its members are more dangerous than gangsters." The police were contacted but their inquiries yielded nothing.

Aum Shinri-kyo Public Relations Officer Hiroshi Araki
Aum Shinri-kyo Public Relations Officer Hiroshi Araki

After the murder, Asahara became more paranoid. Even though the sect was going through a period of increased growth and profitability, he was uneasy about outside interference. There was a growing level of unrest in the community regarding Aums activities. Parents demanding the return of their children were no longer satisfied with the many lame excuses that Aum officials offered. The police, having received numerous calls from worried parents regarding alleged "child abductions" and noise complaints from the compound's neighbors, began to take a keener interest in Aum, but failed to instigate an official inquiry. Frustrated with the lack of support from the authorities, several of the parents sought private legal advice. One lawyer in particular decided to champion their cause and began to gather evidence to fight the doomsday cult.

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