Japanese Arrest U.S. Sailor on Murder Charge

Japanese police arrested a 22-year-old U.S. sailor today on suspicion of robbing and killing a Tokyo cabdriver.

The Kanagawa Prefectural Police told ABC News Olatunbosun Ugbogu confessed to killing 61-year-old Masaaki Takahashi.

Ugbogu, a crew member of the USS Cowpens and a Nigerian national, reportedly stabbed Takahashi at the base of the neck with a kitchen knife. The knife then speared a major blood vessel that caused Takahashi to bleed to death.

Ugbogu was stationed at the Naval Base in Yokosuka City, south of Tokyo. A credit card belonging to Ugbogu was found in the taxi and that led to the police's search for the sailor, police said.

The arrest came more than two weeks after the March 19 killing.

The police requested an arrest warrant on suspicion of robbery and murder -- suspecting Ugbogu of killing the taxi driver and fleeing without paying the fare of roughly $200.

The serviceman's whereabouts had been unaccounted for before the murder, police said. U.S. Navy authorities detained the sailor in Tokyo on charges of desertion three days after the murder.

Under the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, the U.S. authorities are not required to report on a missing member of the military while he or she remains stationed in Japan.

Japanese media reported that the suspect told the police he heard a voice telling him to kill someone.

The money belonging to the cabdriver was untouched. The police plan to question Ugbogu about the case.

U.S. authorities turned over the suspect to their Japanese counterparts after his arrest warrant was issued. U.S. ambassador Thomas Schieffer said the two governments worked closely to bring justice to the case.

"What we have tried to do in this whole process is to ensure that the investigation would be thorough and that justice could be done. It will be clear to both Japanese and Americans that we worked together on this and it so far worked," Schieffer told reporters.

Schieffer spent much of today apologizing. He first visited Yokosuka Mayor Ryoichi Kabaya and then met with Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura.

At the meeting with Kabaya, a group of U.S. officials including Schieffer stood in one straight line and bowed their heads deeply before taking a seat.

"This is a terrible event, a terrible stain on the whole community," Schieffer said to the mayor.

Kabaya told Schieffer that it is "very regrettable that the U.S. military was involved in such an incident" and that he is "very angry."

Crimes committed by U.S. military personnel are nothing new to Japan. Japan's National Police Agency says it has arrested 492 U.S. military personnel in the five years ending in 2007.

Early this year, a U.S. Marine was arrested for allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl in the southern island of Okinawa. The charges were later dropped because the girl decided not to pursue the case.

The city of Yokosuka is no stranger to crimes committed by U.S. military personnel. In January 2006, a U.S. sailor was arrested for allegedly robbing and killing a Japanese woman, who was on her way to work.

In an apparent move to ease the anger of the residents, the U.S. base in Yokosuka imposed limits on alcohol consumption and traveling at night until Tuesday.

"I am relieved to hear about the arrest if he is the one who killed Mr. Takahashi," said Hiroyuki Watanabe, an executive at the cab company that employed the victim.

"He was a model employee," Watanabe said of the veteran driver with nearly 40 years of experience. "Mr. Takahashi was such an asset to us. He was one of the team leaders and took very good care of younger drivers. He was well-respected and we certainly miss him."

Late last month, the cab company held a memorial service honoring Takahashi. "We wanted to do something to remember him," Watanabe said.

The company has been trying to come up with ways to better protect its drivers, according to Watanabe. It will install a longer partition behind the driver's seat. "Many drivers do not want a long partition like a Manhattan cab does," Watanabe said, "They feel that would block communication with customers."

The current partition only covers the back of the driver's head. A new partition would extend a little farther toward the passenger's seat -- by 6 inches.

"You may think it is not a lot but we have to do what we can," Watanabe said. "We will be introducing more measures to protect drivers. Any one of us could have been in Mr. Takahashi's shoes. We can be so vulnerable in such a small space but we should not have to work in fear."