'Shaman,' parents held over mutilation

Daily Yomiuri, May 29, 2000

KUMAMOTO -- A woman claiming to have supernatural powers and the parents of a 20-month-old boy who died of severe asthmatic bronchitis were arrested Saturday on suspicion of cutting the dead body of the boy with scissors, police said.

The three suspects, who kept the boy's body in the couple's house for more than a month after his death, told police that cutting the body would revive the boy, Kumamoto prefectural police said.

Chiyoko Miyata, 59, a self-styled shaman who runs a health-food business, Kenji Sugashira, 34, a company employee, and his wife, Haruko, 34, a former nurse, all from Kumamoto, were arrested on suspicion of mutilating a dead body, police said.

The boy, Tetsuya Sugashira, died in early April, according to investigators. Soon afterward, the boy's parents--reportedly acting on instructions from Miyata--allegedly cut the boy's head, chest and abdomen with scissors, police said.

The Sugashiras, who were distressed by their son's disease, were introduced to Miyata in January by an acquaintance who told them there was someone they should see about their son, police said.

After meeting Miyata, the couple reportedly stopped taking their son to hospital, and when he died, Miyata reportedly told the Sugashiras to cut the boy's body, police said.

"Although the exterior shell of the boy has died, the interior is still alive," Miyata was quoted as telling the Sugashiras. "Therefore, if you cut the skin and allow the ether to enter his body through the cuts, you will be able to resuscitate your son."

Then, Miyata reportedly uttered a prayer over the body. "We were convinced that our son would come to life again if we followed Miyata's instructions," the Sugashiras were quoted as telling police. "We still believe in her."

Relatives of the Sugashiras informed police they were worried about Tetsuya because he had suddenly disappeared. When officers of the Kumamoto Higashi Police Station searched the couple's house Friday, they found the boy's body, police said.

Police are expected to press charges of negligence resulting in death as the couple failed to take their ailing son to hospital from January.

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