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Okinawa police believe keys, rod connected to murder of Shimabukuro

Kenneth Shinzato
Kenneth Shinzato

OKINAWA (TR) – In the murder case in which a U.S. civilian employed at Kadena Air Base has been accused of dumping the body of an Okinawan woman, police discovered a rod believed to have been used as a weapon and abandoned by the suspect and the victim’s keys, the Asahi Shimbun reported on Wednesday (May 25).

Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a 32-year-old former U.S. Marine who admitted raping and murdering Rina Shimabukuro, 20, confessed that he had “beat the woman’s head with a rod,” leading authorities to believe the suspect had abandoned the rod discovered in a city water channel in Uruma City, Okinawa Prefecture.

The latest evidence was discovered about 1.5 kilometers away from Shimabukuro’s residence in a city waterway, the last known location where her smartphone transmitted data on April 29 at around 2:40 a.m. A source involved with the investigation said Shinzato’s car was also identified on several security cameras in the vicinity at around the same time.

Was rod used as weapon?

Shimabukuro’s keys attached to a black strap were similar to what the woman had on her person when she was reported missing. Police believe Shinzato used the rod as a weapon.

Officials were unable to locate Shimabukuro’s smartphone.

Police said Shinzato admitted to murdering Shimabukuro and abandoning her body but didn’t explain how he disposed the smartphone and the murder weapon, leading them to believe he could have discarded evidence in city waterways.

Divisive issue

The latest discovery comes two days before U.S. President Barack Obama is set to visit Hiroshima on May 27 as the first sitting U.S. president to do so.

The outrage surrounding Shinzato’s case comes at a delicate time for Japan and the U.S., which are still in talks over the thorny issue of the future of a U.S. airbase in Okinawa.

Tensions in Okinawa were already simmering over the March 13 arrest of 24-year-old U.S. Navy sailor Justin Castellanos, who is suspected of sexually assaulting a woman in her 40s while she was asleep at a hotel.