TOCHIGI (TR) – The Maebashi District Court on Friday handed a 65-year-old woman a nine-year prison term over the fatal assault of a 1-year-old girl seven years ago, an act the defendant carried out in the name of “exorcism,” reports the Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 9).
In handing down the ruling, presiding judge Hideyuki Suzuki described the actions of Junko Kitazume, a resident of Maebashi City, as “malicious” in the fatal assault of Masumi Shirota in May of 2011. The prosecution had sought a 12-year term.
According to the ruling, Kitazume picked the girl up over her head and hurled her to the floor at her residence in Maebashi on May 2. The girl was taken to a hospital while her whole body was in a state of convulsion. She died four days later. It was later revealed that she suffered from an acute subdural hematoma.
During the trial, the defense argued that the defendant, who was accused of manslaughter, was not present during the crime. However, testimony from the parents of the victim said otherwise.
“[The defendant] regularly assaulted the child in acts that were carried out in the name of exorcism,” Suzuki said.
Kitazume assembled a collection of followers due to her claimed spiritual powers. Prior to the arrest of Kitazune last year, the girl’s mother told police that her daughter tripped in explaining her death, but later said, “Kitazume was routinely abusing my daughter by claiming she was performing exorcism.”
The defense has revealed that it will appeal the ruling.