OITA – A woman who reported her 2-year-old daughter missing last fall has been arrested on an initial charge of dumping the child’s body in the woods but has denied killing her, Oita Prefectural Police said Monday.
Yuko Emoto, 35, called police in September to say her daughter, Kotone, disappeared from her car during a brief stop at a supermarket.
On Sunday, however, she told police involved in the probe that she actually found her daughter, who reportedly was sickly, dead at home and then panicked and dumped her corpse in the woods in the town of Hiji.
The police questioned Emoto on a voluntary basis because no witness had emerged. After she led them to the spot where she said she dumped the body, the police found a bone fragment, which they plan to test to see if the DNA matches the daughter’s.
Emoto called the police on Sept. 13 to say she left her sleeping daughter in her car in the supermarket’s parking lot and was away from the vehicle for only five minutes, only to find the girl gone when she returned.
The police failed to find any of the girl’s clothing or belongings in Sunday’s search of the woods and planned Monday to widen their hunt.
According to the police, although Emoto changed her account by saying she found her daughter dead at home and hid the body because she panicked, she also reportedly said, “I did not kill her.”
Emoto lives with her husband and son, a first-grader, in Hiji. Her husband was apparently away on business from Sept. 4 to 13.
Police are looking into a possible motive and are trying to determine the cause of death.
According to an employee at the supermarket, Emoto appeared upset at the time she reported the girl’s disappearance, telling workers there that her daughter had vanished during the few minutes she was shopping.
Neighbors described Emoto as a devoted mother who drives her son to and from school every day and engages in various volunteer and PTA activities. She was often seen holding her daughter, who apparently had difficulty walking due to an illness that weakened her muscles.
“I think she was having a hard time raising two small children. The son always moves around but the daughter couldn’t move very well,” one of Emoto’s acquaintances said.