crime

Man gets 4 1/2 years in prison for house fire in which 4 of his children died

45 Comments

The Oita District Court on Tuesday sentenced a 41-year-old lieutenant in the Maritime Self-Defense Force to 4 1/2 years in prison for manslaughter and arson after he was convicted of fire to his home in Kitsuki, Oita Prefecture, in which four of his children died, last July.

The court heard that Kenichiro Suemune, a father of eight, set fire to the house because he got angry at his wife for not properly seeing him off as he was leaving to go back to Hiroshima where he is stationed, Fuji TV reported. Suemune had come home for the weekend on Friday July 3, 2015, and left on Sunday night July 5.

Shortly before the fire broke out at around midnight, a neighbor said he heard voices shouting at each other. After the fire started, the neighbor said he saw Suemune on the roof, urging one of his children to jump. Four of his eight children died in the fire, while he, his 42-year-old wife, and three other children escaped with minor injuries. The couple's oldest son, 18, was staying with relatives at the time.

Suemune told the court that he lost his temper and that he tried to go back into the house to rescue his trapped children but the flames prevented him from doing so.

It took firefighters about 100 minutes to extinguish the blaze which destroyed the 125-square-meter wooden house. The four bodies found on the ground floor were those of the couple’s oldest daughter Yukari, 14, their second oldest daughter Mayumi, 7, their fourth oldest son Masahiro, 9, and their fifth oldest son Shigeru, 5.

Suemune said he got into an argument with his wife because she hardly said anything to him as he was about to leave. He said he got mad and poured kerosene and some oil on the floor and ignited it. "I wanted her to show some concern for me," he was quoted by police as saying.

His wife told police she saw her husband pouring kerosene everywhere and then use a lighter to start the blaze. Police said multiple plastic containers were found on the premises.

Suemune joined the Maritime Self-Defense Force in 1993. One neighbor said he was very strict with his children and often forced them to line up to say goodbye to him whenever he was about to return to Hiroshima.

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45 Comments
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Just over one year each for the shocking killing of four innocent children? I can hardly think of a more heinous crime anyone could possibly commit. So this is what things have come to - 4 and a half years for this? Disgraceful "judges". This violent, cowardly animal should never see the light of day again.

Rest in Peace to these little Angels.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Four and a half years? Good grief, is this some kind of joke?

A similar case occurred in the UK a couple of years ago, but the man was sentenced to life.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

So last week, some guy gets life on circumstantial evidence, then there's this today . Justice system is a joke.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Only 4 years?!?!? What hell is wrong with this justice system?!?!?!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

WTF! Kill your four kids and only get four years? There is something seriously wrong with Japan's "justice" system. Seems children are only considered property by some parents, and the "justice" system. These kinds of things will continue as long as there is no real consequence.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Got about a year for each kid's murder. Half a year for attempted murder of the rest of the family and arson that endangered the whole neighborhood. Mickey Mouse Justice.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

“I wanted her to show some concern for me,”

She's got concern for you now murderer, concern that you'll be out in a few years and come back to finish the job.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I suppose the 'reasoning' is that he didn't mean to kill anyone, just burn the house down; he immediately felt remorse, in that he tried to rescue the children; he wasn't in his right mind because he had 'lost his temper'.

None of which holds any water. You don't set fire to a building without endangering the people inside; realising 60 seconds after you did something stupid that you perhaps shouldn't have done it, doesn't change the fact that you did it; a person who 'loses it' so drastically for what amounts to no reason at all is a dangerous psychopath who needs locking up to keep the rest of society safe. And for a lot longer than four and a half years. A year for each child, six months for the building? Pathetic.

And when he gets out? Will he 'lose his temper' again and set another fire, when his wife refuses to give house room to the murdering nutter who killed her children?

7 ( +10 / -3 )

There are two main issues presented in this story.

1) Justice System reform

The court's penalty was extremely light. Arson is a serious crime, especially if the area is occupied and people get killed. This offender committed the crime with malicious intent. Life imprisonment should have been the minimal penalty in this case.

2) Mental Health reform

I think this story speaks to the mental health that this country seriously needs, but is too afraid to admit. Many people in this country are on the edge of a breakdown like the offender in this story. If only the culture allowed people to get the help they needed with no stigma attached. Look at the results. This needs to change.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

men losing their temper over their spouse/mothers/children seems to be the trend among crimes these days. As is the pitiful sentences that is given out.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Any candidates during elections ever run on justice reform? Might boost voter turnout.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

He should have just left the house and punched a tree or something, get his frustrations out. Killing your own children, just wow.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Non-Japanese line up to pour scorn on the Japanese justice system, which results in a country with far less violence than any other place on earth. Yeah! But, no, that is just as scornful of me. It is difficult isn't it? The trick is working out why the Japanese justice system is so good, so much better, even though superficially it would not appear to seem so.

My guess is that forgiveness (as in this case), and taking a broader view are two important elements in the mix.

The research below found that in a comparison between Chinese and American newspaper reporting of murders, the Chinese reports were more likely to report on more societal and historical factors leading to the murder whereas the American reports were more likely to concentrate on the (bad) character of the criminal. I am not saying that the Chinese criminal justice system is great (i know little about it) but I think that this holistic approach to culpability exists in Japan likewise.

Choi, I., Dalal, R., Kim-Prieto, C., & Park, H. (2003). Culture and judgement of causal relevance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(1), 46. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/84/1/46/

In any event it is important to to lose sight of the fact that Japan is doing criminal justice right. I think that in the face of the barrage of negativity (at the time of writing all the above comments are negative, for instance) even they lose sight of themselves, which is a tragedy of immense proportion.

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

the Japanese justice system, which results in a country with far less violence than any other place on earth

I think you've got cause and effect back to front. The Japanese aren't less violent because of the justice system, the justice system is what it is because the Japanese are less violent. (On the whole - we're both playing with stereotypes here).

5 ( +6 / -1 )

like so many others, i am in complete shock at this ruling. how can a judge sentence him to only 4 1/2 years? regardless of whether he tried to save his children or not, his childish and reckless actions killed four of his children. prison is meant to be punishment for one's actions and this hardly seems like an appropriate punishment for this idiot.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This guy is a complete nutcase! Why was the charge only manslaughter? He should have got four years for each death and another four for setting fire to the house!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@Cleo I think that there is likely to be a two way (or rather holistic again) interaction between the justice system and the violence. I am unsure why you think that the arrow of cause points only one way.

I don't think that the lack of violence in Japan is any sort of stereotype but a reality for which I am very grateful.

Another paper on holistic decision making that is downloadable is Choi, I., Nisbett, R. E., & Norenzayan, A. (1999). Causal attribution across cultures: Variation and universality. Psychological Bulletin, 125(1), 47. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.316.4107&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Personally I think that "holism" is imagination. If you look at the language of this case "three children 4.5 years", then it just does not add up. "1.5 years per life!?" But if you see the guy, heard and imagined the reports of how he tried to save his children, his reaction to their death, and his subsequent behaviour in custody, and imagine all that, then one might rightly reach the conclusion that they accused has suffered enough to warrant this sentence. In the video in my mind, this father has already received three life sentences.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

"if you see the guy, heard and imagined the reports of how he tried to save his children, his reaction to their death, and his subsequent behaviour in custody, and imagine all that..."

Meanwhile, back in the real world...

We are all imagining the SHEER HORROR faced by the INNOCENT CHILDREN being BURNT TO DEATH in their own home by their PSYCHOTIC FATHER.

RIP little ones!! :-(

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Japan has less violent crime than many other nations but I don't think this has anything to do with the "justice" system. I don't care how much this guy has suffered already, I want him kept locked up so that he cannot repeat the crime. In this case the "justice" system is failing to protect the people from someone who is mentally ill and who should not be released into society. I don't want to see people bowing and apologising in five years when he has burnt down another house and killed more children.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"In this case the "justice" system is failing to protect the people from someone who is mentally ill and who should not be released [back] into society"

Yes. In the similar (and very famous) case in the UK the crazy father gets LIFE IN PRISON, the crazy mother gets SEVENTEEN YEARS, and the social services get told that they should have taken the kids away before then.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2303851/Mick-Philpott-sentenced-LIFE-wife-Mairead-gets-17-years-Derby-house-plot.html

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Leaving aside the obvious issue that whether the sentence in this case was too lenient is a matter for the Japanese to decide not foreign nationals, for comparative purposes I would note that in 2011 Behring Breivik killed 77 people in Norway and injured scores of others. His sentence? Twenty-one years.

Using the calculus many have applied here, his sentence was under four months for each person killed with no allowance made for the scores he injured. Moreover his act was deliberate and planned, not a spur of the moment outburst.

By this reference, the Japanese court handed out a rather severe sentence. Would those saying there is something seriously wrong with the Japanese system say the same thing with respect to Norway?

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

The judge looked at it as if the guy was destroying his own property i guess. Pathetic.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Readers, comparisons with other countries are not relevant to this discussion.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The judge looked at it as if the guy was destroying his own property i guess.

My guess is that the judge looked at the father with compassion rather than thinking, "I don't care how much this guy has suffered already" (!) and for that reason he justice system works so beautifully well.

-12 ( +3 / -15 )

@timtak 'In the video in my mind, this father has already received three life sentences.'

Although I understand and wish I could believe in this way of thinking, I cannot. The innocent lives taken did not ask for this. They were going to live their lives, feel and breathe and experience all that it offers. A thief steals, takes money and can very easily get at least this same level of punishment. Life is precious, irreplaceable. Perhaps there may be a few too many 'holists' in this justice system already ?!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

My guess is that the judge looked at the father with compassion rather than thinking, "I don't care how much this guy has suffered already" (!) and for that reason he justice system works so beautifully well.

Thanks for posting timtak. It's a shame that so few people have evolved away from the pitchfork revenge mentality.

What would the point of a longer sentence be? The anguish will be with him forever. The kids can't be brought back by sticking needles in this guy's arm. Any thirst for revenge in this instance is simple-minded and pathetic.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

One year per kid.... this is not justice.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@ Timtak

Actions speak loader than words, in this case the action of err lighting his home up with his family inside. Sure some or even all of his words since may well be genuine sorrow and regret but that still does not retract from his prior actions, he is an adult and should be tried as one and the sentence should be reflective of this. imo.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"Any thirst for revenge in this instance is simple-minded and pathetic"

Wrong! JUSTICE is merely society's code-word for REVENGE. As part of a civil society we collectively agree to give up our individual REVENGE and hand it over to the JUSTICE SYSTEM.

The prison sentence is NOT a punishment. It is PROTECTION for the criminal from the REVENGE of the wider society,

But if the JUSTICE SYSTEM does a bad job of it, people will take the responsibility for REVENGE back from the JUSTICE SYSTEM and do it themselves.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Japan has less violent crime than many other nations

That is a Japanese fantasy... burn alive 4 children... is a violent crime.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What would the point of a longer sentence be?

To show that burning down a house with children inside is grave offence and warrants grave consequences. Not just 4 and half years in prison.

Let's face it, the sentencing is a joke. I don't which is sicker the crime this lieutenant committed of the sentencing from the court.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

4 for 4 ...!!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

One neighbor said he was very strict with his children and often forced them to line up to say goodbye to him whenever he was about to return to Hiroshima.

This dirtbag was full of himself from the start. He is not exactly a worthy candidate to produce many children with. Part of me thinks his SDF background helped him get a lighter sentence.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I MEAN SERIOUSLY????? Does he have some kind of immunity because he works as a LT in Japanese navy? This is so wrong in so many ways. My heart goes out to the 4 kids.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Wrong! JUSTICE is merely society's code-word for REVENGE. As part of a civil society we collectively agree to give up our individual REVENGE and hand it over to the JUSTICE SYSTEM.

A mature justice system is not based on revenge, but on rehabilitation, and protection of the rest of the citizenry.

Japan has less violent crime than many other nations

That is a Japanese fantasy... burn alive 4 children... is a violent crime.

One example doth not a statistic make. And the actual statistics show that Japan has less violent crime than almost all other nations, and is one of the safest countries in the world.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Japan's justice joke system at work again.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Strangerland: "A mature justice system is not based on revenge, but on rehabilitation, and protection of the rest of the citizenry."

The Japanese justice system is not based on rehabilitation, and you know it.

This comes less than a day after the guy put his son and daughter in a plastic bin, killing the boy, and countless mothers killing kids, etc. maybe crime in general is less in Jaoan, but murder of children, and abuse in general, is sky-rocketing here, the latter having increased more than 60% since 2014 (read the article on the boy who killed himself after social services did nothing about parental abuse for the stats).

And AGAIN they are choosing random punishments out of bell jars. Four years for four children is RIDICULOUS! Especially when you have people getting 18 years for possibly setting off explosives that hurt no one, or other suspects getting life when there's limited proof in the first place.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

What a sad joke the 'justice' system is in Japan.

At the end of February a death penalty sentence was upheld for someone who committed arson that resulted in the death of five people. How can there possibly be such a wide variation in sentencing for the same crime?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The Japanese justice system is not based on rehabilitation, and you know it.

I never claimed otherwise. The Japanese justice system has a lot of growing to do. My comment wasn't on the state of the justice system, it was refuting this claim:

JUSTICE is merely society's code-word for REVENGE.

In a healthy justice system, it's not about revenge.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

A punishment way under his sin.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

4 1/2 years for BURNING FOUR of his INNOCENT children to DEATH...ONLY in Japan

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Not surprising the wife may have been too busy to see him off as she tried to look after 8 kids. What a pathetic man and what a pathetic punishment.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Justices in Japan are all about position, not justice per se. The justice system, thus, is a whimsical sham of those in other societies. Judges do not apparently have an enforced code to go by; rather, they have wide latitude based on their own feelings, not the law. The justice system in Japan is only slightly above the usefulness of the police, who are as useful as wings on pigs. 4 1/2 years? Yet another example of my points above. 4 1/2 years? I can think of ways I'd torture him that would last longer than 4 1/2 years.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The judge looked at it as if the guy was destroying his own property i guess. Pathetic.

And here we have the crux of the problem. Certain parents view their children not as human beings but as the parents' property. And the law agrees.

Even his house isn't purely his property, even if he paid for it: it's shared by his wife and their children, for whom it is their home. It's one thing to destroy something that is yours and only yours, but when others depend on it...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Certain parents view their children not as human beings but as the parents' property. And the law agrees"

It is Japanese law that treats children as the PROPERTY of the parents, and it is the PARENTS who agree.

Children do not have HUMAN RIGHTS in Japan. Fact!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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