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YOKOHAMA, Japan — The U.S. Navy seaman accused of killing a Japanese taxi driver last spring talked Friday about the psychological problems he said have plagued him since he was a teenager growing up in Nigeria.

At his robbery-homicide trial in Yokohama District Court, Olatunbosun Ugbogu said he never told anyone — including the military — that he periodically hears voices, because he "feared they were going to kick me out."

Ugbogu, 22, claims "overpowering voices" commanded him to fatally stab 61-year-old Masaaki Takahashi in an alley in Yokosuka’s Shioiri neighborhood on March 19. Prosecutors say he killed the man to avoid paying a $195 cab fare. The sailor also is charged with illegal possession of a knife.

The daylong questioning by his defense attorney, Yasutoshi Murakami, was frequently grueling and arduous.

Ugbogu, again appearing tattered and emotionally distant, spoke in a low, drab tone throughout his testimony and gave short, vacant answers. His speech was slurred at times and the court translator told him to speak louder into the microphone on several occasions.

About two weeks ago, he told the court he takes medication three times a day to stop hallucinations.

He said he first heard the "voices" at age 15 when he was living with his grandmother in Nigeria.

Over time, Ugbogu "tried to avoid it, but it wouldn’t stop." He said the voices would come to him once every couple of weeks.

He said he was always "afraid" they would harm him or his family if he resisted. But he never told anyone about them or sought counseling.

Later on, however, Ugbogu said he confided in a pastor, who told him the "voices [were] demonic," and that praying would solve his problems.

In Nigeria, the church also asked him to write out a prayer request, he testified. That’s when he began referring to the voices as "spirit friends."

When directed by them, the sailor said, he’s unable to distinguish right from wrong and has even experienced blackouts during the encounters.

"Everything just goes dark," he said.

Ugbogu joined the Navy in an attempt to overcome "the voices problem," he testified.

He "managed to resist" the voices for a while upon entering the military, he added.

After he arrived at Yokosuka Naval Base in June 2007, supervisors praised Ugbogu’s job performance on the USS Cowpens, according to his testimony. But that began to change the following December because he "started hearing voices again," he said.

Ugbogu started getting into arguments with co-workers on the ship and also stole a colleague’s credit card. Then he became a deserter a couple of weeks before Takahashi’s killing.

Despite being on medication, he told the court he still hears the "voices" now.

He also allegedly attacked a Japanese police officer in Yokohama Detention Center’s interview room during a visit by Murakami.

Officials have since placed him in a solitary cell.

On Friday, Murakami asked Ugbogu how he feels about Takahashi, the victim’s family and the U.S. military.

"I feel very sorry," he said. "Please forgive me."

His mother testified in the case Jan. 13 after flying to Japan from New Jersey. She also visited her son in the detention center a few days later.

When asked Friday what he thought about seeing her, Ugbogu finally cracked. He didn’t utter anything, but his eyes filled with tears as he stepped away from the witness stand.

It was one of the rare times he’s shown even a drip of emotion since the trial started last year.

Ugbogu’s next court date is Feb. 23.


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