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.© Japan Today