National / Crime & Legal

Father in Chiba case deprived girl of sleep leading up to her death, sources cite mother as saying

Kyodo

A 10-year-old girl who was found dead at her home in Chiba Prefecture last month had been deprived of sleep by her father in addition to being underfed and confined at home by her parents, investigative sources said.

Mia Kurihara’s mother, Nagisa, 31, has told investigators there were times Mia’s father, Yuichiro, 41, woke the girl up to make her stand and that he prevented her from sleeping from around Jan. 22, two days before she was found dead with bruising to her body in the bathroom of their home in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, the sources said.

The father was arrested on Jan. 25 for allegedly assaulting Mia the previous day, including dousing her with cold water from a shower. Mia’s mother was arrested Monday for her alleged failure in stopping the assault.

An autopsy was unable to determine the cause of Mia’s death, but it revealed she had almost no food in her stomach, indicating she had not been fed sufficiently. Investigators are examining the body further.

The mother has told investigators there were times she did not give food to her daughter in the days before her death and she had not allowed Mia to leave home since the beginning of the year at the insistence of her husband.

Investigators have been informed that the mother may have also been a victim of domestic violence.

Experts say the mother may have been unable to reject the demands from her husband out of fear that the violence could escalate if she refused.

“Victims of domestic violence are put in a closed environment where they cannot escape,” said Emi Yano, a professor of gender law at the University of the Ryukyus. “They cannot reject orders because their minds are controlled by violence. Even if the demands escalate, they will face further violence if they refuse,” she said.

The girl’s father has told investigators he began making her stand from 10 a.m. on Jan. 24 and that he does not believe his action was wrong because he was just “disciplining” her. He is suspected of assaulting Mia from around 10 a.m. to 11:10 p.m. the same day.

The case has highlighted a lack of coordination between authorities and officials have been criticized over a series of missteps that could have prevented Mia’s death.

The city of Itoman in Okinawa Prefecture, where the family resided before moving to Chiba, was told by a relative of the mother in July 2017 that Mia was being threatened by her father and that her mother was subjected to domestic violence. The Kuriharas moved out of the city the following month.

In November 2017, Mia said in a school questionnaire on bullying that she was being hit and bullied by her father. She was sent to a child welfare center in Kashiwa, near Noda, the next day for protection and remained there for seven weeks before being transferred to the home of a relative.

In January last year, the father demanded Mia be returned home when he met with the local education board and her school. The education board handed over a copy of the questionnaire upon his insistence, an action that is thought to have aggravated his abuse of the girl.

He later made Mia, then still residing with a relative, write a letter asking to be returned home and stating that she lied when she wrote about the bullying. The father showed the letter to a welfare center, and the center decided to have her return home two days later.

After returning home last March, the girl told an official of the welfare center that her father had actually made her write the letter.