• Kyodo

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The former head of a nursery school was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for murdering a toddler and injuring others entrusted to her facility.

Katsuyo Tani, 61, who once ran the Kobato Jojien private nursery, beat and abused 1-year-old Hitoki Fujishima in February 2002 and left him to die, according to the Takamatsu District Court.

Presiding Judge Masao Takanashi ruled that Tani’s actions constituted murder.

“The actions of the defendant, who was in a position to protect (the child) but instead inflicted unreasonable and cruel abuse and exposed him to the danger of death, and then did nothing to save him out of a desire to protect herself, are malicious,” Takanashi said.

At around 9 a.m. Feb. 19, Tani slapped the boy on the head before dropping him onto a futon from a height of 1 meter. The boy’s level of consciousness deteriorated, but Tani did nothing to help him. He died about three hours later of a brain edema.

Tani was also found guilty of injuring a 6-year-old girl at the nursery by punching her on Oct. 29 and Oct. 30, 2001.

A doctor at Kagawa Medical School performed an autopsy on the boy and determined he died of sudden infant death syndrome. However, about a week after his death, Tani confessed to the boy’s parents that she had beaten the child.

The parents filed a request for a criminal investigation with Kagawa police in March.

Kagawa prefectural officials had known that Tani was abusing children at Kobato Yojien since November 2001, when they received notification from the parents of the 6-year-old girl. In December, the prefecture told the facility to take steps to ensure that such abuse did not happen again.

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