Stepdad suspected in child's death may have left Okinawa
Stars and Stripes June 16, 2007
URUMA, Okinawa — The house is now empty, but Asatoshi Hyakuna can still hear the yelling.
Hyakuna lives next to the two-story house where Roberto Deleon lived with his Air Force wife and two stepchildren in Uruma.
At 11 a.m. on April 11, he heard a man’s voice angrily shouting at someone.
“I was wondering what was going on,” he said. “Shortly after that, an ambulance came. Later I heard that a boy of our next door neighbor had died.”
He said it was the only time he ever heard a ruckus from the Americans who had moved in the previous October.
According to Okinawa prefectural police in Uruma, Deleon called his wife at work on Kadena Air Base that day and reported that the boy, Jordan Peterson, 8, was not breathing.
She rushed home with a military ambulance in tow.
The boy was pronounced dead two hours later at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.
An autopsy stated he died from massive internal bleeding and the case was a suspected homicide, according to police.
Officials at the hospital would not comment on the autopsy.
Roberto Deleon was arrested by Okinawa police May 16 on suspicion of causing the injuries that led to the boy’s death.
He was released June 6 when the deadline for holding a suspect without filing an indictment passed.
Hirokazu Urata, deputy chief prosecutor for the Naha District Public Prosecutor’s Office, said the case remains open and Deleon is the only suspect.
But he does not know whether Deleon still is in Japan.
Neither does the attorney who worked with Deleon and his father, who had flown to Okinawa to assist his son.
“I was expecting him to be indicted,” said Yoshiro Miyaguni, who interviewed Deleon several times during the interrogation process. “After all, the autopsy from the U.S. military hospital said it was a homicide.”
But he said he understood the prosecution’s reluctance to process an indictment.
“On the other hand, [Deleon] adamantly denied the accusation,” Miyaguni said. “If there is no supporting evidence from the wife and daughter, then there is the distinct possibility he will not be indicted.”
He said Deleon’s father left Okinawa last week, missing a scheduled appointment to discuss the case.
“I do not know if Deleon is still on the island,” Miyaguni said, adding that he believes he can get in touch with Deleon if he needs to.
Deleon has dual U.S. and Panamanian citizenship, he said.
According to Urata, there is no hold on Deleon’s passport, as would be the case had he been indicted and freed on bail awaiting trial, to prevent him from leaving Japan.
Kadena Air Base spokeswoman Maj. Dani Johnson said the military can do little but cooperate with local agencies during the investigation.
“If they do turn jurisdiction over to the military, we are prepared,” she said. “It would be worked through the Department of Justice, since it would be a federal case involving someone affiliated with an overseas installation.”
She said Deleon remains barred from base and that his wife, the boy’s mother, Staff Sgt. Sabrina Deleon, is still on Okinawa with her daughter.
An Okinawa woman who called local police concerning the boy five months before his death was speechless at first when she heard Deleon had been freed.
“I could not believe what I had heard,” said Hisa Uechi, 22, after pausing to regain her composure. She had stopped the boy one chilly November evening after spotting him walking shirtless and shoeless.
She said she asked him what he was doing and he told her he was running away from home “ ‘because my Dad hits me.’ ”
“Jordan had gathered all his courage to leave home,” Uechi said. “I felt if I didn’t speak up, his courage and desperate signal for help would be buried and forgotten.”
She said she believed the boy’s story because she could see he had “bruises all over his body.”
But when a police officer arrived, the boy “closed his lips and remained quiet,” Uechi said.
The officer told Uechi that the boy would be safe once he was in the hands of military authorities.
Now she believes that because he was an American and military dependent, the boy fell through the cracks in the Japanese system. And, because he was living in a home off-base, he also fell through any safety net the U.S. military might have, she said.
“It was as if he had been abandoned,” she said.
When local newspapers reported Deleon’s arrest, Uechi was told by police that it was the same boy she had tried to help in November.
She said she was sorry she had not pressed the issue of getting him help.
“On Nov. 30, with my sister, we went to his home,” she said. “We wanted to leave a note or something to let him know that he was not alone, and we are thinking of him.
“But we decided not to leave anything because if his father found the note, Jordan would be in trouble.”
“Jordan had gathered the courage to run away from home and danger,” she said, pausing to wipe a tear from her eye. “I wanted to let him know that he did the right thing and he was very brave.”