LOS ANGELES – A Japanese businessman's surprise arrest in his wife's killing in a Southern California parking lot a quarter-century ago dominated front pages in Tokyo on Sunday as authorities worked to bring him back to Los Angeles.
Kazuyoshi Miura was detained late Friday in Saipan, a U.S. commonwealth in the Pacific, and was being held on suspicion of the murder of his wife. The crime caused an international uproar, in part because he blamed the 1981 attack on robbers, reinforcing Japanese perceptions of America as a violent country.
Miura, 60, had already been convicted in Japan in 1994 of the murder of his wife, Kazumi Miura, but that verdict was overturned by the country's high courts 10 years ago.
"Why now?" the Mainichi newspaper asked in a headline. "His turbulent life entered a new phase."
The LAPD said Miura was awaiting extradition. The department did not provide further details, and it wasn't clear what led to the latest arrest.
"I think U.S. investigators have all along believed that they can make the case with the evidence they had already collected," Tsutomu Sakaguchi, a former Tokyo Metropolitan Police investigator at the time of the shooting, told TV Asahi in an interview Sunday. "If they have a new evidence, that could be a decisive step."
Miura, a clothing importer, and his 28-year-old wife were visiting Los Angeles on Nov. 18, 1981, when they were shot in a downtown parking lot. She was shot in the head, went into a coma and died the following year in Japan.
Her mother said Sunday that she never gave up hope of a resolution to the case.
"I burned incense for my daughter and prayed at a family Buddhist altar, telling her that Americans will put an end to the case, so let's hold onto our hopes and wait," Yasuko Sasaki told Japan's public broadcaster NHK.
Daryl Gates, who was police chief at the time of the killing, said Saturday that Miura was a key suspect even then.
"I remember the case well. I think he killed his wife," Gates said. "We had Japanese police come over; they believed he was guilty, we believed he was guilty, but we couldn't prove it."
Miura was arrested in Japan in 1985 on suspicion of assaulting his wife with intent to kill her for insurance money in the hotel incident. He was convicted of attempted murder and while serving a six-year sentence was charged under Japanese law in 1988 with his wife's murder.
Miura was convicted of that charge in 1994 and sentenced to life in prison. Four years later, however, a Japanese high court overturned the sentence, throwing out a lower court's determination that Miura conspired with a friend in Los Angeles to kill his wife.
Miura's attorney, Junichiro Hironaka, told Japan's Fuji TV late Saturday that the latest arrest astonished him.
"My understanding was that the case was already closed both in Japan and the U.S., especially after their joint investigation," Hironaka said.
Hideo Arai, president of Alpha Japan Promotion, an entertainment management company Miura is associated with, wrote on his blog that the arrest was "outrageous" because of the previous acquittal.
"Japan's Foreign Ministry should lodge a strong protest," Arai wrote.
Toshihide Kawasaki, a Foreign Ministry official in charge of Japanese citizens overseas, said Miura was apprehended as he tried to pass through the immigration control at Saipan's airport to take a flight back home. Japanese consular officials interviewed him Sunday at a Saipan detention center.
"He seemed in good health, and was receiving a fair treatment," said Kenji Yoshida, one of the two Japanese consuls in Saipan.
"We talked about an hour but not so much about his past crimes," Yoshida said. "Naturally, he expressed hopes to see his family, and was very anxious to know what may happen to him."