LAPD make arrest in notorious '80s death
By THOMAS WATKINS
Feb. 23, 2008
LOS ANGELES - A Japanese businessman has been arrested on suspicion of murder more than a quarter-century after an infamous downtown shooting that left his wife dead and caused an international furor, police said.
Kazuyoshi 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.
Miura was arrested Friday while visiting Saipan, a U.S. commonwealth territory in the Pacific, after cold-case detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department worked with authorities there and in Guam, police said in a statement.
"A murder suspect who has been eluding (the) dragnet has been finally captured," the LAPD said. "Miura's extradition is pending."
Officer April Harding, a department spokeswoman, said no other details were available.
Miura's attorney, Junichiro Hironaka, told Japan's Fuji TV late Saturday that the 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. "It's quite a surprise."
Miura and his wife were visiting Los Angeles on Nov. 18, 1981, when they were shot in a parking lot. Miura was hit in the right leg, while his 28-year-old wife was shot in the head.
His wife remained in a coma and was taken in an Air Force hospital jet to Japan, where she eventually died. Miura blamed street robbers on the attack and railed from his hospital bed against what he called a violent city.
The incident reinforced Japanese stereotypes of violence in the U.S. at a time when Los Angeles was preparing for the 1984 Olympics and was particularly sensitive about its overseas image. The LAPD vowed to find the killers.
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," said Gates, who had not heard about Miura's arrest before he spoke Saturday afternoon. "We had Japanese police come over; they believed he was guilty, we believed he was guilty, but we couldn't prove it."
Miura, a clothing importer who traveled regularly to the U.S., had said he would write then-President Reagan and then-Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. and urge them to make the city safer.
"Many young Japanese will be coming to the U.S. with their dreams in their hearts," Miura said at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I strongly hope this accident will never occur again."
In 1984, however, Miura's image as a grieving husband was tarnished by a series of news articles in Japan.
Miura reportedly collected about $1.4 million at today's exchange rate on life insurance policies he had taken out on his wife. In addition, an actress who claimed to be Miura's lover told a newspaper that Miura had hired her to kill his wife in their hotel room on a trip to L.A. three months before the shootings.
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.
Kenji Yazawa, a Japanese consul in Saipan, said his office was informed of Miura's detention Friday but is waiting for permission from local authorities before meeting with him.
"It's been two days since he was detained, and we believe he has been given an explanation of his situation by now," Yazawa said. "I think we should probably discuss his situation now and what may come next."
Yazawa said Miura is believed to have visited Saipan previously and that he was "puzzled" by the unexpected development.
A duty official at Japan's National Police Agency said there was no notice from U.S. authorities before the arrest and that the news surprised him. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of internal policy.
News of Miura's arrest made front-page headlines in Japan.
"Why now?" asked the Mainichi newspaper.
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.
After his acquittal in 2003, Miura often spoke publicly about false accusation and hounding media coverage.
He has been arrested at least twice since 2003, most recently on suspicion of stealing health supplements at a drugstore near Tokyo last year. Miura denied the charges and is free on bail. His trial is pending.
Associated Press Writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.