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YOMITAN, Okinawa — Faced with such evidence as blood and hair found on the damaged front end of a car he drove Nov. 7, a U.S. soldier has admitted he may have been involved in a fatal hit-and-run, his Japanese lawyer said.

But the staff sergeant continues to claim he stopped his car after he hit something while driving home about 4:40 a.m., but saw nothing when he got out of the car to inspect the damage, attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu said.

And that very well could be, said an American minister who was flagged down while jogging along the village road nearly 13 hours later.

"I was jogging home when an elderly Okinawa couple waved me over to where they were standing," said Jason Sorley, a pastor at the nearby Okinawa Christian School International, in a telephone interview. "They were pointing at two white shoes sticking out of the bushes."

Upon closer inspection, Sorley saw an elderly man, dressed in dark clothing, lying in the heavy vegetation.

"It was well concealed," he said. "I probably would not have noticed had they not stopped me."

Takaesu said his client believed he had hit an overhanging tree branch. But Sorley said there are no large trees in the area.

The next morning, the soldier took the white sedan to a body shop in the nearby town of Kadena. An Okinawa policeman saw the car parked there in the afternoon and remarked about how serious the damage appeared. The front end was dented and the windshield shattered.

Blood and hair samples taken from the car later matched the victim, Okinawa police reported.

After a week of questioning by Okinawa police, the soldier decided to refrain from any further meetings until police would agree to videotape the questioning. He claims a statement he made to them early in the investigation was mistranslated.

He is restricted to Torii Station during the police investigation.

Okinawa police said they are treating the case as vehicle manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident.


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