YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Japanese police looked to the public for leads Monday by asking those with information about last week’s killing of a 61-year-old taxi driver to contact them.

Police said they had not, however, requested to interview the Yokosuka sailor whose credit card was found in the slain man’s cab.

The Navy would not identify the sailor, but sources have said he is a seaman apprentice off the Yokosuka-based guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens.

The sailor turned himself in to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service around 3:40 a.m. Saturday in Tokyo, said Commander U.S. Forces Japan spokesman Cmdr. David Waterman.

“NCIS contacted him on the phone and they agreed to meet,” Waterman said.

The sailor was officially declared a deserter March 10 after missing the ship’s movement, and this is the only official charge against him, Waterman said.

The sailor, currently in U.S. custody at Yokosuka Naval Base, has not made “any public statement regarding the death,” Waterman said.

Police say the sailor’s credit card was found in Masaaki Takahashi’s taxi, but a Kanagawa Prefectural Police spokesman said Monday that they had not requested to question him.

CNFJ commander Rear Adm. James D. Kelly pledged the Navy’s cooperation in front of Japanese television cameras Sunday.

“I promise you all, I ensure you all, full support of the United States Navy as far as the investigation is being conducted by either the Kanagawa police or the city of Yokosuka police,” Kelly said in comments televised by Japan’s public broadcaster NHK, according to The Associated Press.

Takahashi was found in his Tokyo-based taxi near Yokosuka’s Shioiri area on the evening of March 19 with the motor running, his seat belt on and a kitchen knife in his neck, according to police reports.

An autopsy later determined Takahashi died at about 9:30 p.m. due to bleeding caused by the blade cutting his thoracic aorta.

Police said his fare reader showed about 17,000 yen, about $170. Several tens of thousands in yen also were found in Takahashi’s pocket, the police spokesman said.

Revisions to the status of forces agreement allow the U.S. military to hand over U.S. servicemembers into Japanese custody before indictment if Japanese authorities believe the servicemember is a suspect in a particularly “serious” crime. Military members can also be made available to Japanese authorities for questioning without being a suspect, Waterman said.

Police are currently seeking the public’s assistance in tracking down information related to the killing. They passed out 1,000 leaflets Monday morning at Yokosuka Chuo and Shioiri stations asking anyone with any information to contact the Yokosuka Police at 046-822-0110.

Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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