Jakarta. Police said on Thursday they have arrested three men tied to nine murders after investigators discovered eight bodies in separate places in the West Java towns of Bekasi, Cianjur, and Garut while continuing the search for the ninth.
Among the victims is a two-year-old boy whose body was buried in Cianjur.
The suspects -- Wowon Erawan, his younger brother Dede Solehudin, and Solihin -- are accused of poisoning their victims in what police said was a serial murder case.
The motive for the murders remains unclear as a joint investigation led by the Jakarta Police is underway.
But preliminary investigation suggests that the suspects have tricked people into believing that they possess “supernatural ability” to multiply wealth and killed the victims who surrendered their assets to eliminate potential witnesses, Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Fadil Imran told reporters.
“Their aim is to steal money from their victims. So the murders were preceded by deceptions -- promises to make the victims richer,” Fadil said.
Three bodies of family members were found inside a house in Bantargebang, Bekasi last week identified as Ai Maimunah, 40, and her two sons from her first marriage named Ridwan Abdul Muiz, 23, and Muhammad Riswandi, 17.
Ai was married to Wowon after divorcing her first husband and the couple had a five-year-old daughter who survived the poisoning in the same house.
Dede was also found inside the house suffering from poison but police established evidence that he took part in the murder.
Further investigation led police to the remains of three women and a boy buried in three camouflaged graves in Cianjur.
“In the first hole, we pulled a skeleton of a two-year-old boy presumably named Bayu. In the second hole, we discovered two skeletons presumably named Noneng and Wiwin. There was another skeleton in the third hole, presumably that of a woman named Farida,” Fadil said.
Fadil said the forensic team will carry out DNA tests to confirm the identities of the victims. Several of the victims are believed to have been murdered two years ago.
The remains of the boy were buried at Wowon’s home in Cianjur and the double skeletons were found in a grave camouflaged beneath a chicken coop in the backyard of a home belonging to Solihin, according to Cianjur District Police Chief Adjunct Chief Comr. Doni Hermawan.
The third grave was found near a home rented by Wowon in a neighboring village.
Based on the interrogation of the suspects, police believed that two other victims were killed in Garut. One of the two bodies was thrown into the sea but was later found by residents and buried.
Police are still searching for the ninth body.