Police arrested a woman and her brother Wednesday on suspicion of starving her five children to death reportedly because they were ordered to do so in an "omen" from God.
Akiko Wakasa, 64, and her brother Takao, 66, are accused of causing the deaths of Akiko's son and four daughters by depriving them of food, said police spokesman Hiroharu Nakagawa.
The emaciated corpses of the victims ranging from ages 27 to 41 were found in August at the suspects' home in Sennan, western Japan, after Takao's brother asked police to investigate because the house had been dead quiet for a month, Nakagawa said.
The suspects told police they had received orders from God to stop feeding the victims, Kyodo News reported. Nakagawa would not comment on the report. Akiko and Takao Wakasa were also found near death from starvation when the corpses were discovered in August. They were arrested after they recovered in the hospital, Nakagawa said.
When the bodies were retrieved in August, neighbors were quoted in media reports as saying that the family was involved in "religious ceremonies" and had been seen digging holes in their garden and sprinkling salt.
Kyodo quoted neighbors as saying the suspects kept the children at home because they didn't want to let bad karma inside.
Japan has been alarmed by an upsurge in bizarre crimes involving cults. Last November, police arrested two cult members who were discovered holding a vigil over the mummified body of a 66-year old man in a hotel room near Tokyo.
This year authorities began cracking down on a religious group that allegedly defrauded followers by claiming to cure diseases by inspecting the soles of their feet.
Sennan is a city of 60,000 people in the southern part of Osaka, about 400 kilometers (248 miles) west of Tokyo.