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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A U.S. sailor being held by the military as a “possible suspect” in the Tuesday beating death of a 56-year-old Japanese woman has confessed to the crime, the Associated Press quoted Japanese police as saying Friday.

No request has been made to turn over the sailor to Japanese authorities, U.S. Navy and Japanese officials reported Friday.

The Associated Press, citing Kanagawa Prefectural Police spokesman Tsuneo Kosuge, reported Friday that the man admitted the killing to Japanese police.

Police officials said earlier that a request by Japanese interrogators to question the sailor had been approved by U.S. authorities, and Japanese police had questioned the sailor at the Navy base Friday, according to the Associated Press.

The Associated Press quoted Kosuge as saying police plan to question the sailor further over the weekend.

The sailor currently is in U.S. custody at Yokosuka Naval Base. Yokosuka police and Kanagawa Prefectural Police said Friday that they had not yet made any request to transfer the sailor to Japanese custody, but Yokosuka police indicated Thursday they intended to do so.

“If we get a turnover request, we will handle it in accordance with Status of Forces Agreement provisions and joint committee agreements,” said Commander, Naval Forces Japan spokesman Cmdr. John Wallach on Friday. “The U.S. Navy continues to cooperate fully with and support Japanese law-enforcement officials in this case.”

Local police said they are investigating the case as a murder after Yoshie Sato, a 56-year-old Yokosuka city resident, was found lying in a building near the Yokosuka Chuo train station Tuesday morning.

Sato, who was found with bruises on her face and head, was taken to a local hospital, where she died from internal injuries, according to a Yokosuka police spokesman.

Sato had been on her way to work in a Yokohama office before she was spotted talking to someone who looked like an American man earlier that morning, police said.

So far, the sailor is the only person in custody, though investigators are talking to many people about the case, Wallach said.

“We’re not identifying the sailor yet, as no charges or indictments have been brought against him,” Wallach said. “We can say that he is 21 years old and was assigned to the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier in May 2004. He joined the Navy in 2003.”

Wallach would not confirm news reports about multiple suspects or robbery as a motive because the investigation is ongoing, he said.

The Navy released a statement Friday apologizing to the citizens of Japan for the “tragic incident.”

U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert and Commander, Naval Forces Japan Rear Adm. James Kelly visited Yokosuka Mayor Ryoichi Kabaya and Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa to offer condolences Friday afternoon.

“I reiterate my deep regret and sadness over this tragic incident, and my promise of complete support and cooperation with all Japanese authorities remains firmly in place,” Kelly said in a written statement.

Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this story.


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