• Kyodo


A 37-year-old woman was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for setting fire to her home in Saitama Prefecture in 2005, resulting in the death of her father, her two children and her grandmother.

In handing down the ruling on Miwako Sakamoto at the Kumagaya branch of the Saitama District Court, presiding Judge Seiichi Nagata said, “After failing in married life and living an unstable life by changing jobs, she became desperate and set fire to her own home to commit suicide.”

But the court showed leniency, recognizing that Sakamoto was in a state of diminished responsibility due to mental illness and alcohol. Prosecutors had demanded 15 years in prison.

The court said Sakamoto set fire to the first floor of the family’s two-story wooden house early Feb. 3, 2005. The house was gutted and her father, Koji, a retired 61-year-old firefighter, her two children, aged 3 and 4, and her 82-year-old grandmother died.

Sakamoto survived the incident, though she sustained serious injuries.

During the trial, Sakamoto’s lawyers submitted a not-guilty plea, saying she was mentally incompetent because she was under the influence of medicine for her mental illness that she had been overusing.

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