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Man who killed mother with dementia driven into corner by poverty, her care

The Kinouchi residence, where the second son allegedly strangled his mother, is seen in Ishioka, Ibaraki Prefecture, on June 6, 2018. (Mainichi/Sakae Kato)

ISHIOKA, Ibaraki -- A man currently on trial for strangling his 86-year-old mother with dementia at their home here was backed into a corner due to shouldering the monetary and emotional costs of her care for over five years, he told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Takeshi Kinouchi, 58, indicted for the murder of his mother Yoshi, sat down for a series of 10 interviews, exposing the harsh conditions of a middle-aged man driven into isolation and poverty taking on the task of caring for an elderly parent at home.

According to the indictment and other information, Kinouchi strangled his mother in their home on Feb. 26, 2018, at around 5 a.m. He turned himself in to a nearby police box immediately after. His older brother Toshikazu, 59 at the time, had died of starvation in a separate room, but as Kinouchi appears to have been unaware of his brother's demise, the authorities do not believe he was criminally involved. The first hearing in his trial with lay judges is set to begin in the Mito District Court on Dec. 10, and a verdict is due to be reached on Dec. 14.

Kinouchi explained that they were a five-member family, with his father having passed away because of an illness 18 years earlier. His younger brother, 55, is married and living in another location within Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo. Kinouchi also had a family of his own, but returned to his mother's home roughly 10 years ago due to discord with his wife.

The healthy Yoshi took a turn for the worst in spring 2013. She started to contradict her own statements in conversation, and was diagnosed with dementia. As his mother had dutifully looked after their family over the years, Kinouchi felt that it was his duty to look after her now that her condition had deteriorated. Toshikazu, who had taken early retirement and was unemployed, joined Kinouchi in caring for Yoshi.

However, from 2015 onward, their mother's legs and hips grew weak, and she became almost completely bedridden. At first, the brothers took her to a day service to have her bathed one or twice a week, but the symptoms of her dementia grew more severe. To make things worse, Toshikazu fell ill, and Kinouchi had no choice but to leave his job in summer 2017 to care for his mother full-time.

Their household income plummeted to the roughly 57,000 yen from Yoshi's pension that was transferred into her account once every two months. The day care center cost 13,000 yen monthly, and Kinouchi stopped taking his mother at the end of 2017.

As the family's poverty worsened, so did Yoshi's condition and the level of nursing care that she required. With the increase in the burden for her care, from the end of 2017, Kinouchi began to think, "I can't keep going like this anymore. Killing her is the only option." By January 2018, his savings had dried up, and he couldn't even afford to buy cup noodles to fill his stomach. "Hearing my mother say that she was hungry was hard," he said.

The day of the incident, Yoshi, who was lying in the bed beside Kinouchi's, called out to him over and over during the night and he had not been able to sleep. "I think I thought, 'This is my chance,' and just acted," he explained. After his hands found their way around her neck, he strangled her making sure he couldn't see her face or her body. Then, it was off to the police box to turn himself in.

Afterward, only 481 yen was found in Yoshi's bank account, while a mere total of 805 yen was found across Kinouchi's three bank accounts. When asked why he chose not to apply for welfare or other public aid, he said, "I didn't want other people to know about my family's situation. I didn't want to know about it myself -- it wasn't a family to take pride in. Maybe if I had consulted someone, then this wouldn't have happened."

According to those familiar with the investigation, the body of 159-centimeter tall Toshikazu weighed only 34.5 kilograms. "I didn't notice (that my brother had died)," Kinouchi said. "I knew that he was not feeling well, but we didn't get along so we didn't talk anymore."

There are other people who ended up killing or causing fatal injuries to those they cared for. An analysis of news reports and other information by professor Etsuko Yuhara of Nihon Fukushi University, showed that 71 percent of some 764 perpetrators in fatalities linked to nursing care between 1996 and 2015 were men.

"Working men have few opportunities to discuss nursing care at their workplaces," said Yuhara. Leaving jobs to care for loved ones without consulting the issue with experts "could cause poverty and isolation for caregivers," she added.

(Japanese original by Sakae Kato, Mito Bureau)

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