Probation Given to Mother in Drowning of Her Two Children

Times Staff Writer

Declaring that she “will likely experience punishment for as long as she lives,” a judge on Thursday granted probation to a tearful Fumiko Kimura, the despondent Japanese-born mother whose two children died last January when she waded with them into Santa Monica Bay in an aborted suicide attempt.

The decision by Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Robert W. Thomas not to send Kimura to prison was strongly supported not only by Kimura’s lawyers but by the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lauren L. Weis.

“I really believe, as the probation report says, that the pain and suffering Mrs. Kimura has inside her is enough punishment,” Weis said.


Wipes Tears Away

During the hearing, Kimura, 33, leaned forward, cradling her chin in her left hand, and occasionally wiped tears from her eyes.

Despite a bailiff’s warnings, spectators applauded when Thomas announced that he would place Kimura on probation for five years. The judge said he had received petitions with 25,000 signatures supporting Kimura, although he said the petitions played no part in his decision.

Kimura bowed silently to supporters as she was escorted from the courtroom.

Her husband, whose infidelity reportedly prompted the suicide attempt, watched from the gallery. He did not speak to reporters. The couple had lived in Tarzana, although the husband, Itsuroku Kimura, 40, a partner in a Japanese restaurant, has since moved.

As a condition of probation, Thomas ordered Fumiko Kimura to serve a year in jail, but that requirement has already been met. Kimura has been in custody for 297 days and will receive credit for another 149 days for good conduct. The judge also ordered Fumiko Kimura to undergo counseling.

When she is released, Kimura will begin a therapy program at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, said her lawyer, Gerald L. Klausner.

Despite the opinion of one psychiatrist that Kimura may yet attempt to take her own life, Klausner said, “I have it on good authority that she is feeling quite strong and optimistic.”


Kimura and her two young children were pulled from the ocean near Santa Monica Pier by two college students last Jan. 29. She survived, but Kazutaka, her 4-year-old son, and Yuri, her 6-month-old daughter, died.

She was charged with two counts of murder but was allowed to plead no contest on Oct. 18 to voluntary manslaughter. She could have been sentenced to as much as 13 years in prison.

The decision by the district attorney’s office to accept pleas on the lesser charges was based largely on reports of seven psychiatrists, according to both Klausner and Weis.

According to Kimura’s probation report, the psychiatrists concluded that Kimura was suffering from psychotic depression and delusions when she walked into the sea. One doctor referred to it as “an impulsive, unpremeditated act.”

The probation report includes the first comprehensive account of Kimura’s explanation of what happened to her and her family. According to the report, Kimura told Deputy Probation Officer Barbara Gerlach that she had considered herself to be a traditional Oriental wife, whose primary qualities, in Gerlach’s words, “would be submissiveness, passivity and a ‘quiet nature.’ ”

Kimura said that her family life was normal until November, 1983, when she learned that her husband had a mistress. As a result, Kimura told Gerlach, she felt guilty and believed that she was a bad mother and an inadequate wife; that she was responsible for her husband’s infidelity. Kimura said her husband agreed to end the relationship with the mistress.


A year later, however, Kimura told Gerlach, she received a telephone call from the mistress, who told Kimura that her husband had not ended the relationship. The mistress complained that Itsuroku Kimura had been deceitful, and that she, the mistress, was thinking of killing Itsuroku and then killing herself.

“I could not ignore her threats, and from that point on, I could not sleep well,” Fumiko Kimura told the probation officer.

Had Been Quarreling

Kimura said she had no one in whom she could confide and that she had been quarreling with her mother, who had come from Japan to help care for the new baby.

“I could not find a solution to the problem,” Kimura told Gerlach. “My friend told me that I should talk to my mother, but she would not listen.

“On the last day, I was thinking about my past life with my parents, and with my husband, and particularly of the time when my mother denied me and when my father introduced me as the daughter of a relative.”

Kimura went to the beach in Santa Monica “for peace and to think,” she told the probation officer.


Feared Abuse

When she walked into the water, she took her children, Kimura said, because she felt that she was hated. If she went without taking her children, she explained, the youngsters would be abused, because they would be seen as extensions of her and would be hated as well.

Parent-child suicide is not unheard of in Japan, although it is not sanctioned by law or custom.

Weis, the prosecutor, and Klausner, Kimura’s attorney, said cultural considerations played no role in the prosecution’s recommendation of probation.

“The statements (Kimura) made at the hospital showed she was not a rational person at the time,” Weis said, “and to punish somebody like this woman by sending her to state prison, I don’t think society would benefit from it.”