• Kyodo

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Five adult relatives who lived with a 3-year-old boy were arrested Saturday in connection with his death from physical abuse in February in the city of Sodegaura in Chiba Prefecture, police said.

Arrested on suspicion of beating and kicking Kakeru Yamamoto to death on Feb. 20 were the boy’s 24-year-old stepmother Chiemi Yamamoto, her 48-year-old father Sakuzo Seki, his 46-year-old wife Kazue and Chiemi’s 78-year-old grandfather Eisaku. The boy’s father, Ken Yamamoto, 26, was arrested on suspicion of neglecting his duty to protect the boy, police said.

Police said Kakeru died from brain injuries after being assaulted by the four adults over a two-hour period beginning 4 p.m. on the day.

Chiemi allegedly launched the first assault against Kakeru, her husband’s son from his former marriage, after observing the boy leaning against their 4-month-old baby girl. The boy was already dead when the stepmother took him to a hospital in the city, police said. Doctors who examined him said he had suffered from malnutrition and was covered in bruises.

When doctors asked Chiemi how the injuries occurred, she replied that the boy had fallen down stairs at her home. The doctors realized the injuries were not consistent with this and reported the abnormality to police, police said.

A public nurse from the Sodegaura Municipal Government visited the house about a week before the boy’s death, police said. The visit came after the nurse noticed during a municipal health check for 3-year-olds that Kakeru had not developed normally.

Police quoted the nurse as saying that Kakeru was tied up with a rope when she arrived. When asked why the boy was bound, the relatives said it was to prevent him from hurting himself as he habitually did, police said.

The boy’s death occurred as the local government was preparing to take action to protect him, local officials told police. Police suspect Chiemi, her parents and her grandfather repeatedly abused Kakeru after Chiemi’s baby girl was born.

Some of their neighbors told police they had noticed earlier in February that Kakeru had two broken front teeth, adding that the boy was not taken to a dentist. Other neighbors told police the Yamamotos often left the house with their baby girl while Kakeru remained at home alone.

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