The Tragic Story of Mana Murata – A 3-Year Old Girl Who Starved to Death After Being Locked in a Cardboard Box by Her Parents

May 2023, a 3-year-old girl was put into a cardboard box by her parents for nearly 20 days, During this period, there was hardly any food, and eventually died, the small remains were like mummies. The people involved were a 21-year-old young couple with dyed yellow hair who had been parents in their teens.
  The girl named Mana Murata died on December 10, 2000 in a room at the end of the fourth floor of Building E, the employee dormitory of K Steel, a large steel manufacturing company in Taketoyo Town, Aichi Prefecture. It is said that when the crime happened, the house was in a mess, the sink was full of dirty dishes and pans, and the smell of leftovers wafted in the air.
  On the north side of the room is a three-fold room, which is full of furniture. In the little space left, there is a cardboard box the size of a citrus box with the bottom removed. Mana is trapped in the cardboard box with her legs bent. The bottom of the box was covered with a towel quilt, and the lid was stacked with used old cardboard boxes.
  Mana’s father, named Murata Tomonori, worked as a mechanical maintenance worker at the Chita Sales Office of K Steel’s subsidiary. The mother’s name is Murata Masami, a housewife. At the time of the case, Mana had a younger brother named Daichi, who was one and a half years old, and her mother, Masami, was still pregnant and gave birth to her next daughter, Yumi, during the public trial.
  At the time of her death, Mana was 89 centimeters tall, barely taller than the average for a 3-year-old girl, but weighed only 5 kilograms, less than 40 percent of the standard median of 13.6 kilograms. The pockets of her diapers were full of excrement and urine, and there was feces sticking from her waist to her thighs, which gave off a stench. The loss of subcutaneous fat left her skin dry like an old man’s, her jet-black hair hung loose over her disproportionately large head, and her cheeks were sunken. As the fat around the eyes had completely disappeared, her eyes could not close and the whites of her eyes had turned dark brown from dryness. Both the hip joint and the knee joint were bent at right angles and were in a state of stiffness, indicating that she had been inactive for two or three weeks before her death.
  An autopsy found that there were only 20 milliliters of contents in Mana’s stomach, that is, about one tablespoon of brown mucus, and no solid matter. There is no fat in the intestinal tube, the small intestine is empty, and only rabbit feces the size of eggs remain in the large intestine. In court, the prosecution and the defense had different views on the composition of the pellet of feces—was it the shed intestinal mucosa, or a little bit of food fed to her by her mother, Yami? Both sides hold their own views on this. The results of the autopsy showed that in order to survive, Mana had exhausted all the energy of her body.
  Masataka Nagao, chair professor of forensic medicine at Nagoya City University Faculty of Medicine, who was in charge of forensic autopsy, testified at the public trial: “I have participated in 500 forensic autopsies so far, but I have never seen a dead person who was so hungry during his lifetime.” Naosaki Takahashi said: “I saw the photos of Mana when she died. She looked very mature, and she didn’t look like a young child.” What about the situation? On November 20, 1997, Mana Murata was born in a maternity hospital in Taketoyo Town, Aichi Prefecture, a small town on the Chita Peninsula. Mana delivered normally, weighing 3058 grams.
  Mother Masami is 18 years old. After graduating from junior high school in Taketoyo Town, she went to regular high school while working, but she resigned and dropped out of school after only persisting for more than two months. Afterwards, she mixed with delinquent boys and rarely went back to the dormitory of her father’s company where her father and brother lived. She dyed her hair colorful and dressed herself as a “black hot girl”. At night, she sat on the back seat of a bosozoku’s motorcycle and drove through the streets of the city.
  Yami doesn’t wear makeup, and her baby fat face is still watery. I don’t know why, but it is impressive. Masami’s parents divorced a long time ago, and her mother Hideko ran away with Masami’s two younger brothers to live in other cities. When Mana was born, Hideko was 39 years old. She worked as a truck driver and had close contacts with Masami. However, she was very busy with work, and Masami’s grandmother accompanied the delivery in the hospital.
  Mana’s father, Murata Tomounori, was in the third year of high school at the time, and he would visit the mother and daughter at the maternity hospital after school. Tomoze and Masami were not yet married when the child was born, but the two planned to go through the marriage formalities when Tomoze graduated from high school. Zhi Ze, who is still studying, clumsily changes Mana’s diaper, feeds her, and actively takes care of her daughter. At that time, he obeyed the school rules, wore a school uniform, had his hair neatly cut, and the back of his hair was shaved cleanly, leaving a neat and serious impression. This young couple looks like two irrelevant people, but in fact they are childhood playmates they have known since the nursery school, and they are very close.
  After Masami was discharged from the hospital, she took Mana back to her father’s staff dormitory in Taketoyo Town, where her older brother, who was two years older, also lived. There were only two men in the room, which was already messy and lacked a sense of cleanliness. Yami begged for an old stroller and put it in the four-and-a-half-fold room. She spread out the baby quilt that Hideko had made, and placed the Pikachu doll on it—the doll Hideko had also made herself.
  Zhize also visits here every day after school, and Hideko occasionally visits Mana. Tomono lives in Taketoyo Town with his parents and his sister, who is five years younger than him. He did not tell his family about Mana’s birth. Murata Hiroyuki, an employee of the company, is his adoptive father. His biological father and mother Satoko divorced when he was in the kindergarten class. Satoko and Hiroyuki remarried when he was in the second grade of elementary school. Satoko agrees with her son to have a relationship with Masami, but Masami was pregnant once before, and she made Masami abort the child because she was worried about affecting Tomoko’s future. Afraid of the backlash they would face if they told Satoko, the young lovers gave birth to the child in secret. After being discharged from the hospital, Masami put a letter and a photo of Mana in an envelope, and Zhi Ze put it in the mailbox at home to inform Satoko of Mana’s birth in this way. Satoko immediately went to visit the staff apartment where Masami and Mana lived. Seeing the chaos in the house, Satoko said that a newborn baby should not live in such a place, so she took Mana and Masami back to her home. During this period, Satoko took good care of Mana.
  The past before the child’s birth is indeed complicated, but not only the parents of both parties, everyone in the two families is happy for Mana’s birth. But why did Mana have to face a cruel death after just 3 years?
  In 2003, Japan’s children’s counseling centers received 26,569 applications for abuse counseling, an increase of 11.9% over the previous year. This number has increased more than 16 times in ten years. As abuse comes to the fore and the laws improve, abuse is more likely to come to the surface than ever, which is a big reason for the increase, but at the same time abuse itself is becoming more common stand up.
  The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan conducted a fact-finding survey on the phenomenon of child abuse caused by subsidies across the country, targeting relevant departments such as education, health, medical care, welfare, justice, and public security. The results showed that in 2000, there were about 35,000 abuse cases that required social intervention. Since then, at least 180 children have died from abuse. Nana is also one of them. However, some people think that there should be more than that in all the abuse cases of the year. Entering the 1990s, it was widely believed that raising a child was a painful and difficult process.
  According to a survey, about 10% of mothers raising preschool children abused their children, and about 20% of them may appear at any time. In other words, one in three or four mothers does not raise their children properly. What happened behind all this?

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