• Kyodo


A 34-year-old woman was sentenced Monday to 2 1/2 years in prison for killing her 10-year-old son by keeping him tied to a downspout on her veranda for three days, causing him to die of blood poisoning.

In an unusual move in passing sentence against Shoko Umemura, the Nagoya District Court also determined that a female acquaintance of hers who has not been indicted was an accomplice in the crime.

That woman, whose name is being withheld, denied in testimony during Umemura’s trial that she was involved in the incident.

However, presiding Judge Katsuhiko Hori said the woman’s account is “quite unnatural, irrational and not trustworthy,” causing him to conclude that the two had a “tacit collusion” in the act.

According to the court, the two stripped Umemura’s eldest son, Takuya, and tied his hands and legs to the downspout on Oct. 14, 2000, and left him there for three days. He died of shock from blood poisoning.

Prosecutors charged that Umemura became angry with the boy because she thought he had drenched a room of the apartment with water. They did not name the acquaintance in their indictment and insisted Umemura basically acted on her own, demanding a five-year prison term for her.

Judge Hori said the act Umemura and the woman committed cannot be construed as “teaching the boy a lesson.” Hori said they bear “grave criminal responsibility for the child abuse.”

During an initial police interrogation, Umemura admitted to the crime. But when the trial opened, she argued that it was the acquaintance who tied the boy to the downspout.

In his ruling, Hori said Umemura’s testimony is “concrete and detailed” and does not sound irrational. He then concluded that her acquaintance “ordered Umemura to tie up the boy with adhesive tape and rope” and tied the boy to the pipe herself.

The woman “appears to have held a grudge against Takuya,” the judge said.

Umemura’s lawyers have argued that the acquaintance totally controlled their client, saying Umemura was not of sound mind and was in a state of diminished responsibility at the time of the crime.

Masamitsu Iwaki, head of Umemura’s defense team, said he was relieved that the court recognized the acquaintance’s involvement.

He expressed hope that the ruling will prompt police to reopen the case to examine the other woman’s role.

Toshihiko Adachi, deputy chief prosecutor at the Nagoya District Public Prosecutor’s Office, said an investigation was carried out on the acquaintance, but there was not enough evidence to file charges. He said the office will consult with superiors to decide whether to take action against the woman.

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