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Former Marine who sparked Okinawa furor is dead in suspected murder-suicide

Abduction and rape recharged opposition to U.S. bases in late 1990s

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Almost 11 years after the crime that recharged opposition to U.S. bases here, a former Marine convicted in the abduction and rape of an Okinawa schoolgirl is believed to have killed a Georgia woman before committing suicide in her apartment.

Kennesaw, Ga., police spokesman Mike Brock told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday that Kendrick Ledet, 31, of Smyrna, Ga., was discovered dead in the third-floor apartment of slain Kennesaw State University junior Lauren Cooper, 22, on Sunday.

Ledet is referred to as a suspect “as long as there is an active investigation,” Brock said. He said the medical examiner must file his report for the investigation to wrap up, expected to happen later this week.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution cited the Cobb County, Ga., coroner in reporting that Ledet was the victim of self-inflicted knife cuts to veins in his arms.

Cooper’s body was nearby. She apparently had been sexually assaulted, then killed by strangulation and a blow to the head, according to the Journal-Constitution.

Ledet and Cooper were former co-workers, according to the police report.

There were no signs of forced entry into Cooper’s off-campus apartment, which was in a gated, luxury community, Brock said.

The coroner said Ledet committed suicide, apparently several hours after Cooper was killed, according to the Journal-Constitution account.

The bodies were discovered Sunday when Cooper’s parents went to check on her after not hearing from the marketing major for several days.

Ledet was a 21-year-old private first class when sentenced in March 1996 with Pfc. Rodrico Harp, 22, and Navy Seaman Marcus Gill, 23, a medic, for raping a 12-year-old girl they abducted from a street corner in Kin village, just outside Camp Hansen where they were stationed.

The incident, which occurred on Labor Day 1995, outraged Okinawans, resulting in several large protest rallies. In 1996, the United States and Japan signed a bilateral agreement to reduce the amount of land on Okinawa covered by U.S. bases by 21 percent. At the time, the bases covered one-fifth of the island.

Harp and Gill were sentenced to seven years of hard labor in a Japanese prison. Ledet — who claimed he changed his mind about the rape but faked having sex with the girl because he feared Gill — was sentenced to 6½ years.

All three men were released from prison in 2003 and dishonorably discharged.


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