He was found guilty and sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
A family argument turned ugly when a grandfather stabbed a teenage girl to death. Susumu Tomizawa, 88, admitted to killing his 16-year-old granddaughter Tomomi nearly two years ago but claims he has no recollection of doing so in a court in western Japan. Tomizawa has Alzheimer's disease, which is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes brain cells to die and the brain to shrink (atrophy). Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is defined as a progressive decline in cognitive, behavioral, and social skills that impairs a person's ability to function independently, per Mayo Clinic.
His lawyers argued in court that he should not be charged criminally because of his illness as it causes cognitive impairment including memory loss, reports CNN. They said in court, "He was insane at the time due to dementia and alcohol consumption ... and therefore pleaded not guilty."
However, the Fukui City Court disagreed, and Tomizawa was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for murder on May 31. The case shocked many people in Japan, an aging country with an increasing number of elderly dementia patients. The trial was closely watched and drew sympathy from many who expressed sympathy for Tomizawa and the family's loss of Tomomi.
The story of grandfather Susumu Tomizawa, an 88-year-old with Alzheimer's who killed his granddaughter and claimed he could not remember, shocked many in Japan -- an aging nation where the number of elderly dementia patients is on the rise. https://t.co/RffPm1mpcT— CNN Philippines (@cnnphilippines) June 12, 2022
Tomizawa and Tomomi got into an argument on the night of September 9, 2020, which resulted in the teenager's death. Tomizawa remembered drinking heavily that night. Upset and intoxicated, he entered Tomomi's bedroom with a 17-centimeter (nearly 7-inch) long kitchen knife and repeatedly stabbed her in the neck. The alarm was raised when Tomizawa called his eldest son and said he'd discovered Tomomi's bloodied body, according to the court. Soon after, police arrived and arrested the elderly man.
Doctors who examined him insisted that he had a reason for murder. Forensic psychiatrist Hiroki Nakagawa told the court, "His actions were purposeful and consistent with his intent to kill." According to prosecutors, the elderly man was able to control his actions and, "possessed the ability to judge right and wrong."
In a court in western Japan last month, Susumu Tomizawa, 88, admitted to killing his granddaughter Tomomi, 16, nearly two years ago -- but, he said, he doesn't remember doing it. https://t.co/uzMjdy4mk9— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) June 13, 2022
The court acknowledged Tomizawa's Alzheimer's disease in its decision but said he understood the consequences of his actions. Judge Yoshinobu Kawamura, "After careful examination and consultation with the defendant, we [made] a careful judgment. The defendant was in a state of mental exhaustion at the time of the crime and he had great difficulty in judging right or wrong or in dissuading himself from committing the crime -- but he was not in a state where he was unable to do so."
Alzheimer's Disease most often affects the elderly, and according to Clinical Trials Arena, Japan will have the fastest-growing prevalent cases of this disease. The elderly population (age >65 years) is the primary driver of the projected increase in the Alzheimer's burden in Japan, accounting for 20% of the total population, making Japan the society with the highest proportion of elderly in the world.
Today Biogen announced the submission of a Japanese New Drug Application (J-NDA) to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) for our investigational therapy for #Alzheimers disease.— Biogen (@biogen) December 10, 2020
A 2021 report by William B. Grant of Nutrition and Health Research Center, a transition in nutrition from the traditional Japanese diet to a wester-influenced diet explains the rise in cases of Alzheimer's in the west-Asian country.
Experts say that crimes involving dementia patients are extremely complex. Jason Frizzell, a psychologist who specializes in criminal court cases told CNN, "How much of their conduct can we reasonably explain through the disease itself as opposed to other motivations such as anger or retribution."
Koichi Hamai, a criminal justice expert and law professor at Ryukoku University in Kyoto said, "Prisons in Japan are full of elderly inmates suffering from dementia. The number of elderly prisoners is increasing and we have to take various measures to [address it]"
Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Peter Dazeley