KOBE – The Kobe District Court on Thursday found three people guilty in the death of Kazuko Oe, a 66-year-old woman in Amagasaki whose demise was part of a series of mysterious deaths in Hyogo Prefecture.
Presiding Judge Masahiro Hosoi sentenced Hiroyuki Kawamura, 43, the former husband of Oe’s second-oldest daughter, Yumi, to 3½ years in prison for assault resulting in death. Prosecutors has sought five years.
Oe’s eldest daughter, Kae, 45, got a suspended three-year sentence, while Yumi, 42, was given a suspended two-year term.
Oe’s body was found in a metal drum in a rental warehouse in November 2011. This led to the discovery of a series of suspicious deaths of people around Miyoko Sumida, a woman at the center of the bizarre cases. She killed herself last December while in jail.
The court fount that Kawamura and Oe’s two daughters, in conspiracy with Sumida, caused the victim to die through violence and not giving her enough food and water between July and September 2011.
The trio did not deny abusing Oe. At issue was whether the three, who had been physically abused by Sumida, were able to judge and act normally at the time of the crime.
Their lawyers argued during the lay judge trial that all three should be ruled not guilty because they were completely unable to criticize or resist Sumida at the time of the crime and were thus mentally incompetent.
Hosoi rejected the claim, noting, “It cannot be said that they had entirely lost the ability to think by themselves.”
The abuse of Oe was merciless and heinous, the judge said.
Explaining why the two Oe daughters were given suspended sentences, Hosei said Kae surrendered herself to police and Yumi’s involvement was limited.
It is clear they would not have committed the crime if they had not met Sumida, he said. Kae and Yumi were in one sense victims of Sumida, he said.
In the series of mysterious cases, eight people, including Oe, are confirmed to have died. Several other people linked to Sumida are missing. Criminal cases have been established for six of the eight confirmed victims. Ten people, including relatives of Sumida, have been indicted.