NAGOYA – A woman with cancer accused of killing her mentally disabled brother died Sunday evening at the Nagoya Detention House, one day before a court was scheduled to rule on the case.
Katsuko Ichino, 66, of Nagoya’s Nakamuwa Ward, had been indicted for killing her 69-year-old brother, Sadao, in March after learning that she had malignant breast cancer and would no longer be able to care for him.
Ichino was confirmed dead in her cell Sunday evening, after a guard found her immobile around 8:30 p.m.
She is believed to have choked on her own vomit, according to officials at the detention house.
It is thought she died accidentally, though the circumstances of her death are being examined.
Following her death, the Nagoya District Court canceled a court session Monday, during which it was scheduled to hand down a ruling on the case.
The criminal action against Ichino will be officially dismissed.
According to the indictment, Ichino killed her brother at their home in Nagoya on March 4, fearing she was close to death. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in January.
Ichino had taken care of her brother, who had severe mental disabilities, for 24 years and feared for his survival following her death.
After strangling Sadao with an electric cord, Ichino had planned to commit suicide, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors had demanded a five-year prison term for Ichino, charging that her actions were motivated by “a self-righteous belief that she alone could care for her brother.”
Defense lawyers sought leniency, stating that caring for her brother was Ichino’s sole purpose in life.
Following her arrest, Ichino was hospitalized and underwent cancer surgery.
She was discharged after undergoing surgery and was scheduled to receive a court ruling in June.
The court was forced to postpone its ruling, however, when she was again hospitalized after her condition deteriorated.
Ichino returned to the detention house on Sept. 1, with her condition having improved to the point where she could receive treatment as an outpatient.
The district court was planning to hand down its ruling on Monday.
Sources close to Ichino say that she devoted most the past 24 years to taking care of her brother. A welfare helper also visited their house three times a week to help out, they said.
Many residents in her neighborhood sympathized with the accused. They petitioned the district court, submitting the signatures of some 1,100 people seeking leniency.