MIYAGI (TR) – A court here this week handed a woman a 10-year prison term over the fatal neglect of her 2-year-old daughter at their residence in Sendai City last year, reports the Sankei Shimbun (Mar. 17).
At the Sendai District Court on Tuesday, presiding judge Takao Okawa described the acts of Risa Tsuchiya, 26, towards her daughter Hinata as “extremely dangerous and irresponsible.”
According to the ruling, Tsuchiya, a bar employee, left Hinata alone at the residence, located in Aoba Ward, with an insufficient amount of food and drink while she went to work and visited a male friend between June 21 and June 30, the day she was confirmed dead.
During the trial, the defense denied the claims of the prosecution, which had sought the same 10-year term. “She couldn’t remember her daughter because of a mental disorder,” the defense said.
However, Okawa denied the claim. “It is painful to imagine the suffering and despair that a young child endured after being left alone for a long time,” the judge said. “And the circumstances and motives that led to the crime are malignant.”
“I am terrible”
At around 11 a.m. on June 30, 2019, Tsuchiya alerted emergency services when she returned home and found Hinata collapsed on the living room floor and not breathing. Hinata was later confirmed dead at the scene.
“I was exhausted from child rearing,” the suspect was quoted by the Sendai-Kita Police Station. “I left [her] to be by myself. I am terrible.”
The results of an autopsy later revealed that the cause of death was hypothermia.
The residence included an air conditioner. However, it was not turned on. With the lock on the glass door of the balcony not locked, police believed that Tsuchiya could have instructed Hinata how to go in and out.
Police suspected that Hinata removed her clothes when the temperature climbed. She then died after her condition weakened.
Tsuchiya shared the residence with Hinata, who was aged 2 years and 11 months. At the time of her death, she weighed 8.6 kilograms, which his about 4 kilograms less than average for her age, health ministry data revealed.
According to the government of Sendai City, staff members on three occasions requested via telephone and documentation that Hinata undergo medical examinations. However, those requests went unanswered.
When she departed, Tsuchiya left Hinata with a single onigiri (rice ball) purchased from a convenience store. A wrapper was found in the living room. There was no food in the refrigerator, police said previously.
“I taught her how to eat when I was at home,” Tsuchiya said during the investigation. “However, this was the first time I went out [and left her alone] for such a long period.”