Police arrest US base employee suspected of dumping missing woman’s body in Okinawa

May 20, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

On May 19 the Okinawa prefectural police arrested 32-year-old Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a current military employee on Kadena Air Base and former U.S. Marine living in Yonabaru, on suspicion of dumping the body of a 20-year-old female office worker from Uruma City who had been missing since April 28. Shinzato told the police that he abandoned the woman, who had stopped moving, in a wooded area. Due to Shinzato’s testimony, the prefectural police were able to find the woman’s body along Prefectural Highway 104, which goes through Onna Village. The police identified the body as the missing office worker by her dental records. According to the police, Shinzato’s testimony suggests that the woman was murdered. They are pursuing an investigation into her murder as well. The prefectural police established a special investigation headquarters on May 19 for the murder and body dumping, comprised of 88 personnel under Uruma Police Station’s head detective Kenryo Tomari.

At the time the woman disappeared, the prefectural police searched about 300 cars traversing the area, one-by-one. On May 16 an investigator made contact with Shinzato. Although Shinzato denied having any connection to the incident, he was visibly shaking when he answered. Noticing this behavior, the investigator continued to question him as a suspect. According to those involved in the investigation, after his questioning on May 16 Shinzato overdosed on sleeping pills and was taken by ambulance to receive treatment.

Shinzato volunteered his car for investigation, and DNA from the woman was discovered inside on May 18. The next day Shinzato began to admit to his involvement and told the investigator where he abandoned the woman.

The woman’s corpse was about 10 meters from the road, abandoned in a wooded area and partially decomposed. On May 20 the police had an autopsy performed at University of the Ryukyus Hospital to determine the cause of death. The woman was wearing a shirt and shorts, but her shoes have not been found.

On the night of April 28 Shinzato was driving from Ota, Uruma, where the woman lived, toward Kin Town. After that, at around 2 a.m. he made a stop at Uruma City sandspit. A police officer mentioned that the investigation is working to clarify the specifics on where Shinzato and the woman crossed paths, and the cause of the woman’s death.

Shinzato is a former US Marine, and works on Kadena Air Base maintaining its internet presence.

Ambassador in charge of Okinawan Affairs Masashi Mizukami and Director General of the Okinawa Defense Bureau Kazunori Inoue visited Vice-Governor of Okinawa Mitsuo Ageda on the morning of May 20 and apologized for the incident. That afternoon Okinawa Area Coordinator Lawrence Nicholson and US Consul General in Naha Joel Ehrendreich followed suit.

According to the Okinawa prefectural police, from the time of Okinawa’s return to Japanese sovereignty until the end of 2015 there have been 574 incidents of violent crimes committed by U.S. military personnel.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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