Suspect in ‘81 L.A. Killing Now in Japanese Jail : Businessman Charged in Wife’s Murder

Times Staff Writer

Kazuyoshi Miura, a Japanese businessman who was suspected for several years of arranging the 1981 fatal shooting of his wife on a downtown Los Angeles street, was charged Thursday with murder and conspiracy in her death.

Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner told reporters that his office plans to seek the extradition of Miura, who is in custody in Japan. But he also noted that Japanese authorities are eager to file their own murder case against Miura and are sending a team of 10 prosecutors and investigators to Los Angeles next week.

“If they are successful in putting together their case and he is prosecuted and convicted, then we would not pursue our case,” Reiner said.


Miura, 40, is serving a six-year prison term in Japan for a previous attempt on the life of his wife, Kazumi. A former girlfriend of the businessman testified at his trial that Miura asked her to kill his wife after offering to marry her and share the proceeds from a $200,000 insurance policy on Mrs. Miura’s life.

Reiner said the girlfriend, Michiko Yazawa, who is on parole after being convicted as an accomplice in the murder attempt, would be a key witness in the murder conspiracy case in Los Angeles. Miura could face the death penalty if convicted.

Testimony in Japan showed that Yazawa, a waitress and former pornographic film star, attacked Kazumi Miura in her Los Angeles hotel room with a hammer-like object in August, 1981. The victim survived the initial attack with a minor head injury.

Three months later, both Miuras were shot during what appeared to be a street robbery.

Miura quickly recovered from an injury to his leg, but his 28-year-old wife lapsed into a coma and died a year later after being flown to Tokyo in a U.S. military plane.

Miura received about $750,000 in insurance money.

At first, Miura was portrayed as a hapless tourist victimized by senseless tragedy. But in 1984, he came under suspicion after questions were raised in the Japanese news media, where the case became a cause celebre.

Subsequently, a badly decomposed body found in Los Angeles was identified as Miura’s former girlfriend, Chizuko Shiraishi Kusumoto. She had disappeared five years earlier while on a trip to Los Angeles.

The Kusumoto murder remains under investigation, Reiner said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Louis K. Ito, who traveled to Japan last August with the two investigators in the case, said that in addition to Yazawa, there are three male witnesses willing to testify that Miura offered them money to have his wife killed.

Ito said the witnesses, whom he would not identify, include a former employee, a man now living in Japan who used to work as a sushi chef in Los Angeles and a Los Angeles shopkeeper.

Reiner said investigators do not know who actually shot Mrs. Miura.

The district attorney also said Yazawa told investigators that Miura had “proposed to her several plans” for murdering his wife.

Under one plan, Reiner said, Yazawa was to shoot Kazumi Miura in the head, shoot her husband in the thigh and then drive away in Miura’s car. But, according to Reiner, Yazawa rejected that plan because she does not drive.