88-Year-Old Man Says He Can’t Remember Killing His Granddaughter Due to His Alzheimer’s

The man stabbed his 16-year-old granddaughter multiple times in the neck after an argument.
japan, crime, murder, stabbing, grandfather, alzheimer's, dementia, granddaughter
The Japanese man was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for killing his granddaughter. Photo: Shutterstock

An 88-year-old man in Japan has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for fatally stabbing his 16-year-old granddaughter, an act of violence he claimed he didn’t remember due to his Alzheimer’s.

The man, Susumu Tomizawa, was reportedly arguing with his granddaughter Tomomi on the night of her murder in September 2020 in western Japan’s Fukui prefecture. He took a 17-centimeter-long kitchen knife from a storage unit in his house and went into her bedroom, where he repeatedly stabbed her in the neck, a court heard last month.

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Tomizawa said he could not remember killing Tomomi nor recall what their fight was about. But a judge ruled that he understood the weight of his actions, citing in part a phone call he made to his eldest son about Tomomi’s bloodied body on the floor just after the stabbing.

“His manner of committing the crime was dangerous and his strong intent to kill was evident,” the judge at the Fukui district court said Tuesday, the national broadcaster NHK reported.

This case has come as a shock to residents of Fukui prefecture, where violent crimes are extremely rare. In 2021, the prefecture with a 760,209 population had just three known murder cases

“It’s not often you hear about a grandchild being the victim of a violent crime,” Katsuhiro Ueki, a Fukui prefecture police officer who investigates murders, told VICE World News.

Tomomi began living with her grandfather about a month before she was murdered, after fighting and falling out with her own parents. But the two reportedly did not get along, and the 16-year-old considered moving out. Tomizawa had been drinking heavily the night he stabbed her to death, the court heard.

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Tomizawa’s condition was a focal point in the trial, as a judge deliberating on the appropriate punishment had to assess whether the 88-year-old knowingly carried out the murder.

A week before the ruling, the court assigned a doctor to conduct a psychiatric evaluation of Tomizawa. The doctor, Hiroki Nakagawa, confirmed that the grandfather did have Alzheimer's disease based on his past medical records, but said his condition likely didn’t influence the crime, according to Fukui Television, a local news station. 

“He had a motive for committing the crime, such as quarreling with Tomomi, and his actions were purposeful and consistent with his intent to kill, as he stabbed her in the neck,” Nakagawa said. 

Nevertheless, the court handed Tomizawa a reduced sentence because of his illness. Japan punishes murder with the death penalty or life imprisonment. The minimum sentence is five years.

In 2014, a 72-year-old former cab driver who had dementia—which Alzheimer’s is a type of—fatally strangled an 82-year-old woman who was in the same hospital as him. The man similarly received a reduced three-year sentence given his mental condition.

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