CAMP FOSTER — About five months before his death, a Japanese woman saw signs of problems with 8-year-old Jordan D. Peterson.

Hisa Uechi said Friday that she saw Jordan walking on a street in the Esu district of Uruma City at approximately 5 p.m. on Nov. 27.

Uechi, 22, said she became suspicious when she noticed the boy walking with bare feet and wearing shorts on a cold day.

When she asked what he was doing, he replied “running away,” she said.

“I then asked why,” she said.

“Because Dad hits me,” she recalls him saying.

Jordan, son of an Air Force servicemember assigned to Kadena Air Base, died April 11 from blood loss caused by injuries to internal organs.

Okinawa police on Wednesday arrested the boy’s stepfather, Robert E. Deleon, 25, for allegedly beating the boy to death.

The Air Force did not make public the boy’s death and has declined to release the mother’s name.

Kadena spokeswoman Maj. Dani Johnson said that because of federal privacy laws the base cannot discuss whether there were any open family advocacy cases involving Deleon. Johnson also could not confirm whether the boy’s parents alerted military authorities that he was missing in late November.

According to Brian Davis, a spokesman at U.S. Naval Hospital on Camp Lester, the boy had never been treated at the facility before April 11.

In a statement, Davis also invoked federal privacy regulations as well as an ongoing police investigation to say the hospital could not release specifics of the child’s fatal injuries or treatment.

According to the Japanese police report, Deleon was in the family’s off-base home with his stepson and a 10-year-old stepdaughter on April 11 after his wife had left for work. At about noon, he called his wife, telling her that the boy was not breathing. The boy was pronounced dead at 1:56 p.m. at U.S. Naval Hospital on Camp Lester.

“He told me that he wanted to go back to the States,” Uechi said, recalling the day when she saw the boy near a local home improvement center. She said that she noticed dark bruises on his legs, arms and forehead and some scars on his earlobes.

“Then he asked me if the road takes him to the airport,” she said.

She said she told him that the airport was too far to walk and that she wanted to at least get him a pair of shoes.

“He refused my offer, saying that his dad would be mad if he found it out,” she said.

Uechi called the Koza Children’s Counseling Center, a shelter for children, but was instructed to first report the incident to the police, she said.

Later, the boy was taken to Uruma police station for protective custody after a sales attendant at the store called the police, said a spokesman for Okinawa prefectural police in Uruma.

“When we contacted the military police, we were informed that a report for a missing child had been made to the military police from the boy’s parents,” the spokesman said.

Later in the day the boy was released to his parents, who came to the police station, he said.

The spokesman said the boy explained to police that the scars on his forehead were from falling and he denied being abused.

“He was playfully running around at the police station and there had been no clue that he had been abused,” said the police spokesman.

Davis said the Navy hospital staff’s “hearts go out to” the boy’s family.

“Of all the things health care workers see in the course of their careers, the untimely death of a child is by far the most difficult,” he said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Megan McCloskey contributed to this report.

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