Woman linked to several deaths in extended family found dead in cell
A woman at the center of a bizarre case involving the deaths or disappearances of several members of an extended family was found dead in her cell at a detention facility in Kobe on Wednesday morning.
According to police, Miyoko Sumida, 64, was found in her cell at 6:15 a.m. She was in a futon and a T-shirt was twisted tightly around her neck, with her hands still on the shirt, Fuji TV reported. She was taken to hospital and pronounced dead an hour later, police said.
Sumida has been in custody since last year. Officials at the detention facility said she often spoke about wanting to die and asked how she could kill herself, Fuji reported.
Last month, police arrested seven members of Sumida’s extended family as part of multiple murder investigation that expanded after three decaying corpses were found in an empty house in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture.
A fourth body encased in a concrete-filled drum was pulled out of the sea in Okayama Prefecture shortly afterward. Police said that more people were missing, presumed dead. Sumida used to live in the abandoned house.
Also under arrest are Sumida’s 62-year-old common-law husband and her two sons, aged 30 and 25, as well as a 42-year-old man married to one of the women whose body was found in her house.
All four dead were related to, or acquainted with, Sumida, police said.
News coverage of the case has featured tangled family trees and speculation over the reasons behind the multiple deaths, which has centered on claims the family has large debts and hinted at the involvement of organized crime.
Reports have said Sumida would approach strangers, initially picking a quarrel with them before befriending them.
She would build a rapport that allowed her to exert enormous control over her victims, which reports say escalated to the point where she was able to move into the family home or have families go to live with her.
Sumida would then punish any who tried to escape by coercing family members to inflict physical hardships on them, in some cases torturing and starving people to death.