Cram school teacher gets 18 years for slaying girl

Kyodo

A part-time cram school teacher was sentenced to 18 years in prison Tuesday for fatally stabbing a 12-year-old female student in 2005 at the school in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture.

The shocking incident led the cram-school industry to review classroom safety and baselines for hiring teachers.

Yu Hagino, 24, stabbed Sayano Horimoto, a sixth-grader, with a kitchen knife in the neck and other parts of her body while they were alone in a cram school classroom on the morning of Dec. 10, 2005, the Kyoto District Court said.

“The cruelty of the crime is beyond description,” especially since it happened in what should be considered a safe environment — a student and teacher in a school, presiding Judge Makoto Himuro said.

Himuro dismissed the defense argument that Hagino was mentally incompetent at the time of the crime, holding him fully responsible for his actions, which the court concluded were premeditated.

The defendant had prepared the knife used and pulled the plug on a video monitor to avoid being interrupted by other students or teachers, the judge said.

The court, however, did not accept prosecutors’ demand that Hagino get life imprisonment. The judge also noted that Hagino had surrendered by making an emergency call to police.

The victim’s father, Tsunehide Horimoto, 43, told a news conference, “The sentence is too light.”

After the defendant pleaded guilty, his mental competency became a major issue during the trial, but a psychiatric test cleared him.

During the proceedings, Hagino told the court that he was upset by a complaint about his teaching, filed against him by the victim’s parents in May 2005. He claimed the episode led him to hallucinate that the girl had attacked him with a dagger.

The court ruled Himuro, who was fired after the slaying, was capable of separating illusion from reality.