YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A U.S. Navy sailor is a “possible suspect” in the fatal beating of a 56-year-old Japanese woman, officials said Thursday.

The sailor is believed to be a crewmember of the USS Kitty Hawk, but neither Japanese nor Navy police would identify him due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, they said.

He was in Navy custody Thursday.

Yoshie Sato, a Yokosuka city resident, was found bleeding on the first floor of a multifloor building near Yokosuka Chuo station around 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Sato had been on her way to work in an office near Yokohama Station, said a Yokosuka City Police spokesman.

Sato died shortly after she was taken to a hospital.

She had been severely beaten about the head and face and suffered injuries to internal organs, the spokesman said.

A 59-year-old witness heard a man and woman arguing around 6 a.m. and asked them to be quiet, but he didn’t see their faces due to the darkness of the early hour.

He checked on them after things quieted down and found Sato on the floor, the spokesman said.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Japanese authorities will work together on the case, said Cmdr. John Wallach, spokesman for Commander, Naval Forces Japan.

“This is a joint investigation,” he said.

But the Japanese authorities are calling it a murder investigation, while the U.S. Navy didn’t officially commit to the term.

“It’s not fair to characterize the investigation yet,” Wallach said. “We’re investigating the death that occurred tragically in Yokosuka.”

Navy officials also declined to confirm several Japanese news reports that a suspect had confessed, that there was more than one person involved, that money was stolen or that a suspect had been caught with the help of a surveillance camera.

CNFJ released a statement Thursday afternoon announcing the Navy is cooperating closely with Japanese authorities in the investigation and offered condolences to Sato’s friends and family.

“I sincerely regret and am deeply saddened by this absolutely abhorrent incident and promise our complete support and cooperation with all authorities, particularly those in Yokosuka,” said Rear Admiral James Kelly in a written statement.

“We are all members of the Yokosuka community and are affected deeply by this tragedy.”

Curfew ordered at Yokosuka

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A four-day, midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew was ordered Thursday for all Yokosuka-area status-of-forces- agreement personnel.

Capt. Greg Cornish, Yokosuka Naval Base commanding officer, announced the restriction on the evening “Commander’s Corner” call-in show.

The curfew comes in the wake of a U.S. sailor being named as a “possible suspect” in the Tuesday beating death of a 56-year-old Japanese woman.

Citing the need for a “cooling-off” period, Cornish said the curfew decision came out of a Thursday afternoon meeting among all commanding officers, executive officers, officers in charge, master chiefs and other leadership.

“This is a time to pause and reflect,” the base commander said on the TV show.

“It’s an opportunity to express our condolences to the family and reflect on the relationship we have with the city and community.”

Base clubs will cut back their hours accordingly, he said.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Lovett said the curfew won’t make a big difference in his life.

“As a family man, I’m usually home by midnight,” Lovett said. Even so, he said, he agrees with the principle behind the policy.

“I heard this was an international incident — and the commander has to do what is necessary to take care of his people,” Lovett said.

One the other hand, the curfew allows one individual to set the course for everyone else, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony Stokesburry.

“One person’s actions from one ship is affecting everyone on the waterfront,” Stokesburry said.

— Allison Batdorff

author picture
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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