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Japanese businessman Kazuyoshi Miura linked to 1979 L.A. murder

January 13, 2009 | 12:43 pm

Three months after a Japanese businessman hanged himself in an L.A. jail after being accused of killing his wife, Los Angeles police detectives are saying Kazuyoshi Miura killed another woman 30 years ago.

In the late 1970s, Tokyo resident Chizuko Shiraishi, 34, was romantically involved with Miura, authorities said. She came to Los Angeles on a trip in March 1979 without telling friends or family of her whereabouts. Then she apparently vanished. Her corpse was found in a field in May 1979 in Lake View Terrace near the Foothill Freeway but remained unidentified until five years later when a Japanese reporter provided her dental charts to the LAPD.

Now, LAPD investigators say they have reclassified Shiraishi's death as a homicide and produced a report claiming the killer was Miura, who hung himself in an LAPD Parker Center jail cell while awaiting trial on conspiracy charges related to his wife's murder.

In that killing, detectives allege the ocean-hopping importer enlisted another man to shoot his wife to death near a downtown Los Angeles Freeway in 1981 to collect a $650,000 life insurance policy.

To cover up his involvement, authorities said he sought to blame the crime on America's "culture of violence."

LAPD detectives said there are parallels in the Shiraishi slaying, which took place two years earlier.

"Not only did he have the opportunity and motive to kill but he had the mindset and capability," said LAPD Cold Case Homicide Det. Rick Jackson. "He did the same thing to his wife for a similar motive, financial gain."

Miura's death came as they were sorting out complicated legal issues related to pursuing a second murder case.

The LAPD already had been working with prosecutors in preparing what Det. Rich Bengston described as "a strong circumstantial case against Miura in the Shiraishi murder." For one, detectives said, Miura had a business and personal relationship with Shiraishi, who disappeared after receiving a $21,000 divorce settlement.

Then, in the two-month period following her disappearance, Miura gradually withdrew that money from her bank, using her bank card and secret PIN number. Detectives said a manger at the Tokyo apartment complex confronted the businessman while he was removing trash bags full of women's clothes and cosmetics from their apartment.

He also gave differing accounts about Shiraishi's whereabouts, including that she had gone to northern Japan to visit relatives or friends or was caring for her sick mother, police say.

"He kept changing his story," Bengston said.

And in yet another damaging fact, detectives say, Shiraishi hopped a plane to Los Angeles on a 30-day tourist visa, listing a Hollywood Holiday Inn as her destination.

The hotel manager told reporters at the time that he had no record of a guest by her name but that a Mr. and Mrs. Miura had checked in the day she arrived.

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Los Angeles Times