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The Tokyo District Court sentenced a woman to 14 years in prison Wednesday for killing the 2-year-old daughter of an acquaintance she claimed had snubbed her.

Mitsuko Yamada, 37, of Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, was found guilty of strangling Haruna Wakayama on Nov. 22, 1999, in a public lavatory near a Tokyo kindergarten and burying the body in the backyard of her parents’ home in Oigawa, Shizuoka Prefecture.

Presiding Judge Naoto Otani ruled that Yamada killed Wakayama to give vent to her “unilateral” hatred of the girl’s mother. Although the judge said the crime was “cruel and unjustifiable,” he noted he took into consideration her voluntary surrender to police. Prosecutors had demanded an 18-year prison term.

Yamada pleaded guilty to strangling Wakayama and pledged to devote her life to atoning for the crime.

The focus of the trial was why Yamada murdered the girl, but the proceedings did not seem to answer that question.

Yamada’s lawyers said she killed the girl because she thought by doing so she would not have to meet the child’s mother anymore.

Prosecutors said Yamada thought she was being snubbed by the girl’s mother and wanted to kill her, but since killing the mother was difficult, she killed the daughter instead.

Yamada, however, told the court, “I still cannot find the answer to why I harbored an intent to kill the mother and why eventually this murderous intent went toward Haruna.”

Yamada’s son attended the same kindergarten as the elder brother of the victim. On the morning of Nov. 22, 1999, Yamada went to the kindergarten to take her son home. But when she found the girl alone, she took her to a public lavatory and killed her, according to prosecutors.

Yamada reportedly became acquainted with the victim’s mother when they both took their sons to a park near their homes about five years ago.

Yamada, who initially liked the woman, later grew to hate her because she thought the woman had snubbed her, according to her statement in court.

Her defense lawyers argued the crime was committed “accidentally under a pathological state of mind,” and asked the court for leniency, noting that Yamada had turned herself in and had pleaded guilty.

During the trial, the parents of the victim asked the court to sentence Yamada to death, with the father saying she is “not a human being, as she was treacherous to a little child who trusted her, and killed the girl.”

In a statement released through his lawyer, the father said he felt anger that Yamada “was trying to seek a lenient sentence by fabricating stories” about her troubled relations with his wife.

The father also said he and his wife had been harassed by media reports speculating about the background of their relationship with Yamada, as well as letters that even accused the parents of being partially responsible for the murder.

The mother told the court that she had no idea why she was resented by Yamada.

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