National / Crime & Legal

Chiba man denies fatal abuse of daughter but expresses 'deep remorse'

Kyodo

A Chiba Prefecture man on Friday partially denied charges that he assaulted his 10-year-old daughter, who died in January last year in a high-profile abuse case.

“I never starved her or weakened her. Nor did I keep her standing, or shower her in cold water,” Yuichiro Kurihara, 42, said of his daughter, Mia, in the first hearing of his case at the Chiba District Court.

Kurihara, however, expressed “deep remorse,” saying, “What I have done to my daughter is beyond the scope of discipline.”

He was indicted last March on charges of causing Mia’s death by depriving her of sleep and nutrition, as well as forcing her to stand in a bathroom while he showered cold water on her, between Jan. 22 and 24 that year.

The girl was found dead in the bathroom of their home in Noda.

Kurihara also faces charges of physically abusing his daughter from December 2018 to January 2019 and beating his 33-year-old wife, Nagisa.

“He repeatedly abused Mia when he had something that disturbed him and relieved his stress by doing so. Ultimately she died due to daily and continuous abuse,” a prosecutor said.

Kurihara was upset with the fact that Mia had grown up apart from him following the couple’s divorce, the prosecutor said.

“We mainly admit the charges,” the defendant’s lawyer said, while denying some of the other claims.

“Although the defendant’s acts went too far, the abuse was not on a daily basis,” the lawyer said.

Questioning will be held from March 4 to 6, and a ruling is expected on March 19.

Last June, the court sentenced Nagisa to 30 months in prison, suspended for five years with probation, for complicity in her husband’s treatment of Mia.

In handing down the ruling, the court said it was difficult for Nagisa Kurihara to resist her husband due to his abuse and her mental condition.

According to the June 26 ruling, she failed to report the abuse inflicted on the child and complied with her husband’s instructions not to feed her. The family lived in Itoman, Okinawa, before moving to Chiba.

While the family was still in Itoman, the municipal government asked them to accept a home visit by officials after being alerted by a relative of the family in July 2017 about the allegations of abuse and violence.

The family moved to Noda the following month and no visit took place. Officials in Itoman did not pass on information on the allegations to their counterparts in Noda.

In November 2017, the girl reported to her school that she had been “bullied” by her dad and was taken into protective custody for about seven weeks after a bruise was found on her cheek.

But a local education board was found to have given the father a copy of a questionnaire in which she mentioned the abuse.

After the protective custody ended and a welfare center approved her return to her family, no visits were paid to her home by the center or the school to check on her.

The case attracted attention after it came to light that the child welfare center, the school and other local services did not properly respond to her repeated calls for help.

Insufficient information sharing among public entities was also seen as a major factor in the case.

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