• Kyodo

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A couple in Izumizaki, Fukushima Prefecture, arrested in the fatal abuse of their 3-year-old son, had abused their two other children as well, police said Monday.

Isao Shirahige, 40, and his wife, Wakako, 33, allegedly neglected to provide meals to their 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, and hit them with sticks used to beat futon.

They were arrested on suspicion of abusing their 3-year-old son, who died May 28 from pneumonia triggered by severe malnourishment.

Multiple bruises and wounds have been found on the other two children, both of whom are now under the protection of a child consultation center, but the couple denied having abused them, claiming they merely disciplined their children, police said.

According to schools and other sources, the two children had been coming to class late almost every day. When a teacher found bruises while the daughter was changing for gym class and asked her how she got them, she confessed that her parents hit her for disobedience, they said. It is not known when the incident happened.

The 6-year-old son weighed about 10 kg, about half the average weight of a child that age, when he was taken into custody.

The couple were arrested earlier over the alleged abuse of their 3-year-old son, who at the time of his death weighed 7.8 kg, equivalent to the weight of a 6-month-old. Numerous bruises were also found on his body.

The father was also arrested in 1999 for injuring his then 2-year-old son and eventually lost parental authority, while his oldest daughter died in 1996 at age 3 months, apparently from sudden infant death syndrome.

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