Japanese police question U.S. sailor about stabbing
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — After more than a week in U.S. custody, a Yokosuka sailor was officially questioned by Japanese police investigating the March 19 killing of a taxi driver.
The questioning took place at Yokosuka Naval Base and started around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, said Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan spokesman Cmdr. David Waterman.
As of Wednesday evening, CNFJ had neither received an arrest warrant for the sailor nor a request to place the sailor into Japanese custody, Waterman said.
Japanese police can request a pre-indictment hand-over of a servicemember before charges are officially brought — particularly involving serious crimes like rape and murder — by virtue of a “gentlemen’s agreement” between the United States and Japan.
The sailor, a 22-year-old seaman apprentice off the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens, was taken into U.S. custody March 22 after turning himself in to Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents in Gotanda, Tokyo. The sailor had been missing from his command since early March and was declared a deserter March 10, according to the Navy.
According to police reports, a credit card bearing the sailor’s name was found in the taxi of Masaaki Takahashi, a 61-year-old driver who was killed in his cab on a quiet alley in Yokosuka’s Shioiri neighborhood.
Takahashi was stabbed to death with an 8-inch kitchen knife while still wearing his seat belt with the taxi’s motor running, according to police reports. The Tokyo-based driver’s meter showed a 17,000-yen fare, about $167, prompting speculation that the killer couldn’t pay the fare.
Takahashi’s funeral service was held Tuesday in Shinagawa. The Navy did not send officials to attend, Waterman said. However, CNFJ and 7th Fleet placed a passel of restrictions on Yokosuka-based status of forces agreement personnel Wednesday evening “to mourn the March 19 murder.”
A Kanagawa Prefectural Police spokesman declined Wednesday to discuss the details of the investigation — including whether they questioned the sailor or not — citing the investigation’s ongoing nature.
The spokesman also declined to discuss media reports saying the sailor had confessed to the killing and that police had video footage of someone fitting the sailor’s description in both Tokyo and Yokosuka.
Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.