A CIVILIAN employee of the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa has admitted to strangling a 20-year-old local woman and disposing of her body in the bushes beside a road in the central part of the prefecture.
Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 32, was arrested by police on Thursday on suspicion of being involved in the disappearance and murder of Rina Shimabukuro, an office worker.
According to the Japan Times, police were able to locate Shimabukuro’s body based on Shinzato’s statement – her body was found hidden among the bushes beside a road in the village of Onna, north of Uruma.
The paper’s sources stated that police found samples that matched Shimabukuro’s DNA in Shinzato’s car.
In his statement, Shinzato told police that he had dumped her body in a wooded area after she stopped moving.
The last person to contact the victim was her boyfriend, who messaged her in the evening on April 28. Shimabukuro had informed him that she was going out for a walk, and was not heard from again. Police have yet to recover her handphone.
An autopsy will be conducted on the victim to further aid in investigations.
It is reported that Shinzato, a former U.S. marine, resided in the town of Yonabaru with his wife and child, and was working at the base on a voluntary basis.
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In response, the Japanese government has lodged a protest against the U.S., with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe demanding that the U.S. take stern action.
“I feel extremely strong outrage,” Abe told members of the press at his office on Friday.
Foreign minister Fumio Kishida met with U.S. ambassador Caroline Kennedy in Tokyo shortly after news of Shinzato’s arrest, reported the Guardian.
Speaking to Kennedy, Kishida said: “It is extremely regrettable that the very cruel and atrocious case occurred.”
Local media also reported that Kennedy promised that the U.S. would fully cooperate in the investigation.
The fact that it was a U.S. military base worker who had committed a crime against a local has incited an uproar among the Japanese, especially in Okinawa, where anti-U.S. military sentiment runs high due to a high incidence of crime involving U.S. military staff, particularly rape cases.
The prefecture is home to more than half of about 50,000 American troops based in Japan.
The tragic incident could not have come at a more inauspicious time, as U.S. president Barack Obama is due to visit Japan in a week’s time.
Additional reporting by Associated Press