Woman starved son, 5, to death because he looked like husband?

NARA (Kyodo) A 26-year-old Nara Prefecture woman who was arrested together with her husband Wednesday for allegedly starving their 5-year-old son to death has told investigators she could not feel any affection for him because of his resemblance to his father, police sources said Thursday.

Mami Yoshida, a part-time worker, also told investigators her relationship with her husband, Hiroshi, 35, a corporate employee, had soured. The investigators reckon the couple’s worsening relations led to the abuse of their son, Tomoki.

Yoshida said she felt affection for the couple’s other child, a daughter, 3, who shows no signs of having been abused.

Her husband was quoted as saying he was aware their son had been getting weak, but did nothing to protect him.

They are suspected of having failed to give sufficient food or provide necessary medical care for their son since early January.

On Wednesday, the boy was found unconscious by a municipal official who visited the family home after Yoshida called a child counseling center. The boy was lying on a futon wearing a diaper and looking emaciated, the city said.

The official called an ambulance to take the boy to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Although the average height of a 5-year-old is 110 cm, their son was only 85 cm tall and weighed just 6.2 kg, a third of the average weight.

On Thursday, the police conducted an autopsy and also raided the couple’s home in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, in search of evidence.

According to the police, while the couple took their daughter to a day care center while they worked, they left their son alone at home and did not take him to a kindergarten or a day care center.

The Sakurai Municipal Government said the boy underwent a regular health check for 10-month-old babies in 2005. But the parents failed to ensure their son had regular checkups in 2006, when he became 18 months old, and in 2008, when he turned 3 1/2 years old.

In response to the municipal inquiries on those occasions, Mami told officials she needed rest as she was pregnant and could not take her son to the health checkups because she was busy caring for a relative.

Fatal abuse arrest

SAITAMA (Kyodo) Police arrested a couple Thursday in Warabi, Saitama Prefecture, on suspicion of failing to provide sufficient food for their son, who became weak and died in February 2008.

The 4-year-old son of Masami Shindo, 47, and his wife, Sanae, 37, weighed only 10 kg and was 94 cm tall at the time of his death, the police said.

The couple are suspected of failing to bathe and feed the boy, making it difficult for him to walk. They did not take him to see a doctor despite his poor health, the investigation found.

An autopsy showed that the boy, who was hospitalized on Feb. 11, 2008, following an emergency call, suffered from malnutrition and died of acute encephalopathy.

The boy and his brother, 10, lived with their parents at the time. The older son now lives in a child nursing facility.