In a high-profile case, Tokyo District Court sentenced 34-year-old Yudai Funato to 13 years in prison on Tuesday for physical abuse and neglect that led to the death of his 5-year-old stepdaughter, Yua, saying that his treatment of her went far beyond the bounds of disciplinary action.
Funato was accused of causing Yua’s death from sepsis in March of last year. Funato allegedly restricted her food intake from late January last year, assaulted her and did not seek medical care despite her weakened state while at their home in Meguro Ward, Tokyo.
“Restricting food intake and violence were far removed from disciplining, and are unreasonable acts which were conducted based on his own emotion,” the ruling at the Tokyo District Court said.
Yua lost more than 4 kilograms in the 39 days prior to her death and weighed just 12.2 kg when she died, far less than the 20-kg average for her age, and had 170 injuries, according to prosecutors. Funato allegedly interrogated Yua in late February last year after he saw her sleeping despite having instructed her to study. He is said to have sprayed cold water at her face using the shower and beat her without restraint.
The prosecutors alleged Funato gave the girl tasks such as waking up at 4 a.m., and shouted at her and grew violent when she did not obey.
Yua’s 27-year-old mother Yuri Funato, now divorced from Yudai Funato, was given an eight-year prison sentence in September for parental neglect resulting in the girl’s death, and she has appealed against her sentence. The court acknowledged that the woman had suffered psychological domestic abuse at the hands of Yudai Funato.
The defense team had argued that Yudai Funato, who has also been charged with marijuana possession, “set high standards for his family and began to snap at them,” and that he had tried to be a father to her.
Yua left behind written messages such as “Please forgive me” on a sheet of paper.
The girl’s death on March 2, 2018, attracted nationwide attention, and prompted Japan to enact revised laws in June this year banning parents and other guardians from physically punishing children. The revised laws also strengthen the ability of child welfare centers to intervene in cases when abuse is suspected.