SKOKIE, IL—Toshiro Tenchumaru, a 34-year-old ninja and longtime employee at Azuma Copier Corporation in Skokie, stealthily took the lives of 12 co-workers Monday after suffering what investigators theorize was "a breakdown due to job-related stress."

A 1996 photo of Azuma Copier employees, including Tenchumaru (center).

The disgruntled ninja was later captured by police while attempting to flee on foot across telephone lines.

Tenchumaru, who, according to office manager Diane Ellsworth, had been "unusually quiet lately, even for him," was reportedly deeply upset about his worklife.

Following a 9 a.m. staff meeting in which management discussed the possibility of eliminating Tenchumaru's position as Special Secretary For Nocturnal Liquidation, the ninja rose, gave a shallow bow and returned to his shadowy cubicle.

Ellsworth said that shortly thereafter, she and other employees could hear what sounded like a Shinto death-consecration ceremony, as well as "sharpening sounds," coming from Tenchumaru's cubicle.

The first deaths are believed to have occurred just minutes later.

"After the meeting, I was having lunch in the company cafeteria with Eric [Miller], James [von Lustbader] and Frank [Clavell]," office comptroller Timothy Marzano said. "I looked down for a moment to take a bite of my sandwich, and when I looked up, Frank's head had been cut off and placed on his tray, Eric had been sliced in half so neatly that his hair was still in place, and there was blood dripping from the ceiling directly above James' chair." Von Lustbader's dismembered body was later found inside the ceiling.

An office surveillance camera captures one of Tenchumaru's stealthy killings.

Sales supervisor Irene Young, whose cubicle was directly across from Tenchumaru's and who on several occasions had questioned the wisdom of having an office ninja, was the next victim, killed instantly when a single thrust from a razor-sharp ninjato-katana sword pierced her cubicle wall, sheared through her computer monitor, and plunged through her heart.

Tenchumaru then snapped the neck of associate marketing coordinator Donald Brodhagen, shredded the body of office manager Meg Whalen with 18 throwing stars, and used his Butterfly Soul Razor technique to stop the heart of office intern Ian Dallas long enough to drive the intern's nose through his brain with a single punch.

After killing Dallas, Tenchumaru ran along the tops of cubicles to reach the office of senior sales supervisor Leonard Haller, who was hit with eight arrows from Tenchumaru's saisumimen, a whisper-quiet recurved bow of ancient design and unparalleled craftsmanship.

"Tenchumaru's first arrow severed Haller's vocal cords, silencing him without hitting any of the major arteries or veins in the neck and without penetrating deeply enough to touch the spinal column," Skokie Police Department ballistics expert Ken Draper said. "An arrow was then fired into each of the seven henzoitoichi, or major nerve clusters, of Haller's body. Though the hits themselves were not fatal, the excruciating pain killed Haller within 10 seconds."

Four more Azuma employees were later found dead, two of them eviscerated, one garrotted and one impaled upon cunningly folded quarterly report folders. Forensics experts said none of the bodies seemed to indicate that the victims were aware of the ninja's presence at the moment of death.

Tenchumaru was relatively new to America, having been transferred from the Azuma Ninja Clan's mountain headquarters in Japan's Hokkaido Prefecture to Skokie in December 1998. Following the brutal slaying of his Grandmaster at the hands of a rival school, Tenchumaru requested permission to perform the Ritual of Blood Revenge, but was transferred to the Skokie office instead.

Co-workers said that despite Tenchumaru's quiet demeanor, he would occasionally voice dissatisfaction with his work environment.

"He didn't say much. Half the time, I didn't even know he was around," payroll secretary Georgette Billups said. "But when he did talk, it was usually to complain about how hard it was to get a decent cup of tea around the office, or how he shouldn't have to listen to Tim [Marzano] because he wasn't a daimyo warlord, and how the copy machine lacked the beauty and shibumi of hand-brushed calligraphy. But I honestly didn't think it would come to this. I mean, he was basically a shy guy."

Tenchumaru has issued a statement through his lawyer asking that he be allowed to perform ritual seppuku suicide in his cell. He also requested that Senjuro Akechi, master of Myojinsoga-style swordsmanship and CEO of Azumacorp East, be his second in the ceremony.