• Kyodo


Police served a fresh arrest warrant Friday on the former head of a nursery school in Kagawa Prefecture on suspicion of inflicting bodily injury that caused the death of a 14-month-old boy.

Police said Katsuyo Tani, 60, trampled on the head of Hitoki Fujishima on Feb. 19 after he refused to go to sleep.

After standing on the back of the boy’s head, Tani noticed that he was unconscious and rushed him to a nearby hospital, where he was confirmed dead shortly afterward, investigators said.

Tani was initially arrested April 12 and later indicted on suspicion of hitting a 5-year-old girl on the head at the nursery school sometime between Oct. 28 and Nov. 2. The girl later left the school.

Investigators believe Tani commonly used violence on the children she looked after at Kobato Yojien, a private facility in the city of Kagawa, and repeatedly abused the boy until the day he died.

Tani has so far made only vague remarks on the allegations regarding what she did to the boy, police said.

Police arrested her after determining that the cause of the boy’s death was suffocation when she stepped on him, as he was lying on his stomach. The former nursery head is claiming she had no intention of killing the boy, they said.

It took a month for police to launch a criminal investigation into the case — an initial autopsy report on the boy’s death by a doctor at Kagawa Medical School said he may have died of sudden infant death syndrome.

Based on this report, police initially explained to the boy’s parents they could not launch an investigation even though they wanted to, according to the parents.

The boy’s father, Kenji Fujishima, 34, filed a criminal complaint with police March 29, accusing Tani of murder.

On April 4, the doctor told a news conference there were bruises all over the boy’s body and that he mistook the cause of death for SIDS despite evidence of abuse.

Before filing the complaint, the parents conducted their own investigation into their son’s death, such as questioning Tani and another employee at the school to gather sufficient evidence to force police to start an investigation.

According to a telephone conversation with Tani, taped a week after the boy’s death, she confessed to the parents that she trampled on the boy on the day he died.

She also told the parents that she panicked after noticing that the boy was not breathing, but that she was not sure whether the abuse she inflicted had been fatal, according to the tape.

In the recorded conversation, Tani also said that she was ready to accept the legal consequences for her conduct.

After receiving the criminal complaint from the boy’s father, police re-examined the autopsy report, while further investigating the facility’s daily operations by questioning other children.

This led to their initial arrest of Tani for the allegations of injuring the girl.

After Friday’s arrest, Fujishima said he believes Tani should be charged with murder, not injury resulting in death.

He also expressed distrust of the police, who he said initially refused to start an investigation and have yet to explain or apologize for that decision.

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