National / Crime & Legal

Chiba woman pleads guilty to complicity in husband's fatal abuse of 10-year-old daughter

Kyodo

A woman pleaded guilty Thursday to complicity in her husband’s assaults on their 10-year-old daughter, who died in January, as her trial began in a case that has attracted national attention.

Nagisa Kurihara, 32, is suspected of failing to stop her husband, Yuichiro Kurihara, 41, from assaulting their daughter Mia and following his instructions not to feed her from around Jan. 22. Mia was found dead inside the bathroom of their home in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, two days later.

During the first court hearing at the Chiba District Court, prosecutors said the father had resumed his assaults and was injuring Mia by around July 2018, after her protective custody at a child welfare center ended the previous year.

The mother did not report the assaults to police even though she sometimes intervened, the prosecutors said.

As the father has not given any details or reasons for the alleged attacks, prosecutors are relying on the mother’s accounts to shed light on what went on inside their home.

Nagisa Kurihara said during police investigations that she was also assaulted by her husband when she tried to stop his abuse of Mia and came to feel it was no use trying to stop him.

Yuichiro Kurihara has been indicted over assaulting his wife around Jan. 1 in addition to allegations of abuse of their daughter that caused her death, including by depriving her of sleep and nutrition, among other related charges. His trial date has yet to be decided.

Investigations into the case have uncovered how a child welfare center, her school and other local authorities failed to respond promptly to the girl’s repeated calls for help, and a member of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said it demonstrated a crucial lack of responsibility by the adults involved.

In November 2017, Mia wrote in a questionnaire from her school in Noda that she was being “bullied” by her father, and was subsequently taken into protective custody at the child welfare center for seven weeks.

But because she started expressing a desire to go home, the center concluded the abuse was not serious and ended her protection in late December that year.

Mia then stayed with relatives for a time but returned to her parents’ home upon approval by the welfare center in February 2018.

After her protective custody ended, no visits were paid to her home by officials of either the center or the school to verify her safety.

It was also found that a local education board handed Yuichiro Kurihara a copy of Mia’s questionnaire, and that she was released from protective custody despite his suspected sexual abuse of her.

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