FUKUSHIMA – A faith healer was sentenced Friday to death for killing six of her followers between 1994 and 1995.
Sachiko Eto, 54, was handed the death sentence by presiding Judge Akira Hara of the Fukushima District Court after being found guilty of murdering four people and causing injuries resulting in death to two others by repeatedly beating them with drumsticks.
She was also found guilty of seriously injuring another follower.
The death sentence was in line with the prosecutors’ demand.
Three of Eto’s followers — her 30-year-old daughter, Hiroko; Yutaka Nemoto, 27; and Mitsuo Sekine, 52 — received prison terms ranging between 18 years and life for the deaths of the six followers.
The prosecutors had sought life in prison for the daughter and Nemoto — Eto’s lover — and a 20-year term for Sekine.
The decomposed bodies of the four women and two men were discovered by police in Eto’s house in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, in July 1995.
The indictment accused Eto of physically abusing her followers, who lived in Eto’s home, on the pretext of exorcising evil spirits.
The prosecutors alleged Eto inadvertently caused fatal injuries to two of the members and murdered the other four between December 1994 and June 1995. Eto was charged with murder, the prosecutors said, because she must have been aware that her continuous assaults would kill the four.
The Fukushima District Public Prosecutor’s Office argued during the trial that Eto’s actions amounted to “group bullying,” which she initiated to prevent one of her female followers from stealing her lover.
Eto’s lawyers claimed she did not have a murderous intent and that the victims accepted her beatings as part of a religious practice.
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