Case of Kazuko Kudo

Kudo was arrested and charged with murder two months before the 15 year statute of limitations took effect.

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2001/05/31

Woman cleared of boy's '84 slaying But court says she kidnapped victim, somehow caused his death Thursday, May 31, 2001 SAPPORO (Kyodo) The Sapporo District Court on Wednesday acquitted a former bar hostess of a 1998 charge of murdering a 9-year-old Sapporo boy but ruled she caused his death after kidnapping him in 1984 and confining him in her home. Kazuko Kudo, 45, from the town of Shizunai in Hokkaido, was arrested in November 1998 on suspicion of murdering Hidenori Jomaru, who disappeared on Jan. 10, 1984. Prosecutors had demanded a life prison term. Kudo was arrested only two months before the statute of limitations for murder ran out. The statutes for other offenses, including causing bodily injury resulting in death, had run out by 1998. It is unknown how the child died, but bones found in June 1988 at Kudo's former residence were those of Jomaru, presiding Judge Manabu Sato said, noting the defendant caused his death after luring him from his home and confining him. However, evidence presented by prosecutors was not convincing enough "to determine that Kudo intentionally killed the boy," said Sato, who ruled it was also insufficient to prove she had kidnapped the child to exact a ransom from his wealthy family. It is believed the court strictly abided by criminal justice rules -- if there is even a slight doubt of guilt, the accused should be acquitted. Kudo maintained her innocence and refused about 400 times in court to answer questions, claiming she had nothing to say. Despite a lack of direct evidence tying Kudo to murder, prosecutors maintained that the roughly 200 items of circumstantial evidence were enough to establish guilt. According to the prosecutors, Kudo called the boy's home, tricked him into coming out, and then confined him at her house in the town of Shin-Totsukawa and killed him by the evening of Jan. 10 out of fear that police would learn what she had done. Bones found in a barn at the home after a fire destroyed the residence in 1987, killing Kudo's husband, matched the boy's DNA, according to police analysis done in 1998. Police conducted another DNA test on the bones last May following a court order, and the results linked the remains to a DNA sample provided by Jomaru's mother. Defense lawyers noted the cause of the boy's death was unknown, and said the DNA tests were unreliable and financial problems Kudo was experiencing at the time were not serious enough to lead her to kidnap someone. Before the court ruled, Jomaru's father, Takashi, 57, called for the death sentence. He later said he hoped prosecutors would appeal the ruling.
2002/03/20
BOY'S BONES INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE
Court upholds woman's acquittal

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

SAPPORO (Kyodo) The Sapporo High Court upheld on Tuesday a lower court ruling that acquitted a woman of murdering a 9-year-old boy in 1984, dismissing an appeal by prosecutors.

Presiding Judge Hiroshi Kadono said in handing down the ruling on Kazuko Kudo, 46, a former bar hostess from Shizunai, Hokkaido, that the prosecution could not prove she intended to kill the boy.

Kudo was arrested in November 1998 on suspicion of murdering Hidenori Jomaru of Sapporo, who went missing Jan. 10, 1984.

The lower court ruling said she caused the boy's death after kidnapping him and confining him at her home, but evidence submitted by the prosecutors was not convincing enough "to determine that Kudo intentionally killed the boy, or that Kudo kidnapped the child to exact a ransom from his rich family."

It is unknown how the child died, but the lower court said DNA tests showed that bones found in June 1988 at Kudo's former residence belonged to Jomaru, and that she caused his death after luring him from his home and confining him.

The prosecutors had demanded life imprisonment for murder because the statute of limitations for other charges, such as causing bodily injury resulting in death, had run out by 1998.

Kudo pleaded not guilty from the beginning. During her trial, she refused to answer questions.

The prosecutors maintained the murder charge was proven by about 200 items of circumstantial evidence. They said Kudo called the home of the boy's father, Takashi Jomaru, a 57-year-old company executive, under a false name to lure the boy away.

Kudo confined Jomaru at her house in the town of Shin-Totsukawa and killed him out of fear police would learn of her plot, the prosecutors charged.

Kudo was arrested two months before the statute of limitations for the murder charge ran out.

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2002/04/03

Woman 'not guilty' of 1984 slaying Wednesday, April 3, 2002 SAPPORO (Kyodo) A 46-year-old woman was to be formally proclaimed not guilty at midnight Tuesday of murdering a 9-year-old Sapporo boy in 1984, according to officials. The former restaurant employee was to be cleared of murder charges after prosecutors decided not to appeal an acquittal ruling by the Sapporo High Court, the officials said. The woman was arrested in 1998 -- just before the statute of limitations for a murder charge expired -- on suspicion of murdering fourth-grader Hidenori Jomaru at his home in Sapporo. The statute of limitations on any other charge has long since passed. Prosecutors had claimed that she had summoned the boy with the aim of kidnapping him and obtaining a ransom. They then claimed that she killed the boy out of fear of being discovered. The Sapporo District Court and the Sapporo High Court ruled that the woman, who had kept silent during her trial, committed a serious crime that caused the boy's death. Based on a variety of factors, however, the courts doubted her intent to kill him. Hidenori's 57-year-old father, Takashi, said he may file a civil suit against the woman.