• Kyodo

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A 55-year-old woman charged with strangling her 19-year-old daughter in their apartment in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, last October pleaded not guilty Monday at her first trial session at the Yokohama District Court.

The murder — one of the most bizarre crimes to surface in Japan recently — has drawn media attention since Chizuko Okamoto was arrested May 3 after police found four other bodies as well as her daughter’s in the apartment.

Okamoto’s daughter, Rikako, 19, and her 35-year-old stepson, Minehiro Yamauchi, were found dead in the Hiratsuka apartment May 1, and the badly decomposed bodies of a boy and two babies were discovered the next day in cardboard boxes.

The three young children were later determined to have been Chizuko’s. Okamoto has been quoted by the police as saying she kept the bodies of the three children — a young boy and two babies — in cardboard boxes for about 20 years before allegedly killing Rikako.

In 1984, Okamoto reported to police that the boy, 6, was missing.

The trial that began Monday only focuses on Rikako’s death.

Police have determined that the stepson killed himself.

The prosecutors also decided not to charge Okamoto with abandoning the bodies of the three children as the statute of limitations has expired.

“I didn’t kill her,” Okamoto told presiding Judge Nobuyuki Kiguchi. She was charged with strangling Rikako around Oct. 12 last year in the apartment.

She admitted to having seen Rikako dead in the flat but declined to elaborate, saying, “I don’t want to talk today.”

The prosecutors claimed Okamoto decided in October to kill Rikako because she was “irritated” that her daughter was attending a preparatory school and was involved with a theater company.

Okamoto, Rikako and Yamauchi were all unemployed.

When the bodies of Rikako and Yamauchi were discovered in May, the stepson was found hanging inside the apartment, while the daughter’s body was lying on a futon.

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