Jakarta. New details have emerged from the ongoing investigation into nine murders in West Java, with police saying on Saturday that at least seven victims had family ties with one of the suspected killer trio.
Wowon Erawan, 60, who lives in Cianjur, is accused of murdering his three wives, son, two stepsons, and mother-in-law, along with at least two other victims, according to investigators.
He got help from Dede Solehudin, 35, and a neighbor identified as Solihin, 65, in the mass murder which police said was motivated by money scams.
The trio claimed that they possessed “supernatural ability” to multiply money and killed their victims who had surrendered cash and later become suspicious of their crime, according to police.
Most of the victims were killed with poisoned coffee, said Chief Comr. Hengki Haryadi, the director of the Jakarta Police’s criminal investigation agency.
It remains unclear why Wowon killed his wives, children, and mother-in-law. Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Fadil Imran said earlier Wowon killed his own family members because some of them began questioning his actions.
The victims include his two-year-old son whose body was buried at his home in Cianjur.
Police have so far recovered eight bodies, including four buried in Cianjur.
The most recent killings occurred nine days ago when Wowon’s wife and two stepsons were found dying from coffee poisoning at a boarding house in Bekasi. The horrific findings led police to the trio who are now in custody.
Details of what has actually happened remain sketchy in the initial police probe into one of the country’s most gruesome murder cases.
The first known victims of the killer trio were two Indonesian migrant workers identified only as Siti and Farida who had fallen into Wowon’s trap, Officer Hengki said.
The two were killed after demanding returns on their “investment” and the body of Siti was thrown into the sea, according to Hengki.
Farida was buried near Wowon’s home in Cianjur. The officer didn’t say how, when, or where the two women were murdered.
The third and fourth victims were Wowon’s mother-in-law identified only as Noneng who allegedly witnessed the twin murders. Noneng was killed at Solihin’s house in Cianjur and later that day her daughter, or Wowon’s wife named Wiwin, was taken to the same house and murdered.
“Wowon accompanied his wife to [Solihin]’s house and the woman was executed,” Jakarta Police spokesman Trunoyudo Andiko said.
The bodies of the two women were buried in one grave near Wowon’s home, according to the spokesman.
Solihin also killed Wowon’s other wife named Halimah. Her body was returned to her family in Cilicin and the unsuspecting relatives accepted the explanation that she had died of natural causes.
Wowon later married Halimah’s daughter Ai Maimunah, 40, a widow with two sons named Ridwan Abdul Muiz, 23, and Muhammad Riswandi, 17.
Ai, her two sons, her five-year-old daughter from her marriage with Wowon, and Dede were found dying from pesticide poisoning inside a boarding house in Bekasi on January 12.
A day later, Ai and her sons succumbed to poisoning at a hospital while her daughter and Dede survived.
Police said Dede also sipped the poisoned coffee to convince the family that it was safe. He was named a suspect after interrogation while being treated at a hospital.
“Dede drank a small amount of the coffee,” Hengki said.
The officer said that Dede’s task was to collect money from the victims, adding that the trio has stolen at least Rp 1 billion from their victims.
Wowon is believed to have killed his two-year-old son named Bayu from his marriage with Ai and buried the body in his Cianjur home about three months before the Bekasi murders.
Police have introduced hotline numbers to the public in the search of other potential victims as the investigation is expanded.
The suspects buried some of their victims in camouflaged graves covered with tiles or a chicken coop. Several of them were likely to be murdered two years ago.
They are charged under the premeditated murder articles of the Criminal Code which carry the death sentence.