YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Jan. 3 fatal beating of Yoshie Sato may strain relations between Yokosuka city and the U.S. naval base located there, city officials said last week.

Sato, a 56-year-old Yokosuka resident, was on her way to work Jan. 3 when she was beaten and robbed of 15,000 yen (about $130) near the Yokosuka Chuo train station. She later died of internal injuries at a local hospital.

William Oliver Reese, a 21- year-old Navy airman assigned to the USS Kitty Hawk, is accused of the crime and is in Japanese custody pending charges.

“This was the most heinous crime to be committed by a member of the United States military community in our city,” reads 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.”

Another statement was released from the mayor’s office on Saturday. “I hope the overall picture of the incident will be revealed promptly,” Kabaya said in that statement.

“I want to strongly urge the U.S. Forces to take thorough measures to prevent incidents like this from happening again and to take sincere response in the future in such issues as compensation for victim’s family. Again, I pray for the victim’s soul to rest in peace and send my condolences to the victim’s family.”

While Commander, Naval Forces Japan had no official response to the mayor’s statement, CNFJ spokesman Cmdr. John Wallach pointed to the cooperative nature of the investigation and to Saturday’s handing over of the suspect to Japanese authorities.

“The investigation started immediately with full cooperation between the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Japanese authorities, which resulted in the swift apprehension and confinement of the suspect,” Wallach said. “Then there was the almost unprecedented pre-indictment turnover. This speaks well of our relationship with the city and law enforcement that we were able to get this done so efficiently.”

U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert and CNFJ Rear Adm. James Kelly visited Kabaya and Kanagawa Prefecture Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa last week to offer their condolences.

A “period of reflection” — which included a four-day after-midnight restriction from areas around naval facilities in Yokosuka and Atsugi — was declared for all military-based personnel.

“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 last Friday.

Kelly also extended his apologies to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, according to Japanese news reports.

Kabaya, along with Matsuzawa, was to visit Japan’s Foreign Ministry and Defense Facilities Administration Agency on Thursday. The city office did not say what the mayor was planning to discuss with the two agencies.

Yokosuka Naval Base officials said a memorial service was planned for Friday at 10:30 a.m. at Chapel of Hope to “honor the memory of Ms. Sato.”

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.

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up