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Trial of sailor charged in killing of Yokosuka woman will begin Friday

By ALLISON BATDORFF AND HANA KUSUMOTO | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 16, 2006

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Opening proceedings start Friday in the case of William Oliver Reese, a U.S. Navy airman charged with robbing and killing a Yokosuka woman.

Reese will be tried in the Yokohama District Court in Yokohama City. The U.S. Navy handed him over to Japanese authorities less than a week after the Jan. 3 crime.

The Navy will be present at the hearing as an observer, a Commander, Naval Forces Japan spokesman said.

Reese, a 21-year-old E-3 from New Jersey assigned to the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier, was indicted on a charge of murder on the occasion of robbery and is the primary suspect in the killing of Yoshie Sato, a 56-year-old Yokosuka woman.

Sato was on her way to work around 6:30 a.m. when Reese “decided to rob her” and attacked her near the Yokosuka Chuo train station, alleges a Yokohama District Prosecutors Office indictment report. He punched Sato, kicked her and threw her against a concrete wall, the report states.

Reese took 15,000 yen (about $130) from Sato’s wallet and left, according to the report. Sato’s ruptured right kidney and liver caused her to bleed to death later that day at a Yokosuka hospital.

Local outrage followed Sato’s death, with several Japanese political leaders saying it would have lasting implications for the U.S. relationship with Japan. The two countries are hammering out an agreement to realign U.S. forces in Japan. A final plan is due this month.

“This was the most heinous crime to be committed by a member of the United States military community in our city,” according to a Jan. 6 statement from Yokosuka Mayor Ryoichi Kabaya and Yokosuka City Council Chairman Haruaki Naito. “This will inevitably have deep and negative effects on the good relationship between Japan and the United States.”

Apologies and condolences were issued from U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer and several high-ranking Navy officials, including CNFJ Rear Adm. James D. Kelly, U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen.

Restrictions on alcohol consumption and curfews for military personnel also followed Sato’s death.

A four-day “period of reflection,” which included a midnight curfew at Yokosuka and Naval Air Facility Atsugi, was imposed on all status of forces agreement personnel on the two bases. A new drinking policy limiting public alcohol consumption was enacted on all active-duty military in Yokosuka. Curfews, liberty buddy and planning restrictions were placed on all officers and enlisted members of the Kitty Hawk Strike Group — an estimated 8,500 people.

Reese’s hearing is open to the public. People who want to attend must line up on the Minato Dori side of the courthouse entrance and collect a ticket, which will be given out 30 minutes before the 1:15 p.m. start time. If the number of people exceeds the number of seats, a drawing will take place, a courtroom spokesperson said.

Three judges will hear the case, with Masazo Ogura the presiding judge. The other judges are to be Shoichiro Ando and Taro Kajiyama.