National / Crime & Legal

Failed disciplining turned to abuse, Yua Funato's accused stepfather tells Tokyo court

Kyodo

A man charged with abuse that led to the 2018 death of his 5-year-old stepdaughter Yua Funato told the Tokyo District Court Friday that he started assaulting her after his efforts at disciplining her did not work.

“My disciplining was unsuccessful, and I started assaulting her as my anger grew,” Yudai Funato, 34, said during questioning by his defense counsel in the lay judge trial.

According to the indictment, Funato assaulted Yua and deprived her of food in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward from around late January last year, and failed to take her to a hospital when her condition seriously deteriorated the following month for fear that it would expose his abuse.

As a result, Yua died in March 2018 from sepsis after developing pneumonia, the indictment said. Funato has admitted to most of the charges.

During the first court hearing of his case on Tuesday, prosecutors said Funato’s abuse of Yua became worse when she, her mother Yuri, 27, and the couple’s younger son moved from Kagawa Prefecture to join him in Tokyo in January 2018.

He physically abused the girl for failing to live up to his high demands, including waking up at 4 a.m., according to prosecutors.

Yudai Funato limited the girl’s food intake and rarely allowed her to leave the apartment during the final 39 days of her life. She was greatly emaciated and had 170 injuries on her body at the time of death, the prosecutors added.

Yua left behind written messages such as “Please forgive me” on a sheet of paper, which prosecutors regard as pleas for her mistreatment to stop.

The defense counsel said Yudai Funato “had high ideals for his family and began to snap at them,” and he did not abuse them simply because they were a nuisance.

The girl’s death attracted nationwide attention and prompted Japan to enact revised laws in June this year, banning parents and guardians from physically punishing children and strengthening the ability of child welfare centers to intervene in cases where abuse is suspected.

Yua had twice been taken into protective custody by a child welfare center in Kagawa Prefecture. Another center in Tokyo tried to check on her in February last year, but her mother refused to let the officials see her.

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