Abduction and Rape of 2 Japanese Students Outrages Spokane


The tearoom at the local branch of a Japanese college has a name that translates as “place of tranquillity, far to the east of Japan.”

Mukogawa Ft. Wright Institute is well east of Japan, but it is far from tranquil.

The abduction and rapes of two female students on Nov. 11 have traumatized the campus and upset many in this eastern Washington city.


Part of the uproar concerns police response. Although they arrested three suspects within a week, police bungled their investigation of a similar attack two weeks earlier and failed to alert the community about potential predators.

The case has gained a lurid twist with revelations that the suspects are members of a sexual bondage and sadomasochism ring active just outside the city.

It is further complicated by efforts being made by police and college officials to withhold details of the attack and the identities of the victims, who face the possibility of being stigmatized when they return to Japan.

“We’re trying to pull this veil of anonymity over them,” says Barbara Love, director of programs at Mukogawa. “The whole truth would be so devastating.”

In Japan it is uncommon to publicly discuss sexual attacks, Love says. The school’s 160 students don’t know which of their classmates were assaulted.

The parents of one of the students flew immediately to Spokane to comfort their daughter, Love says. But the student wanted to finish her final month in Spokane, so the parents returned to Japan.


“If she goes back to Japan, everybody would say, ‘What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in the U.S.,’ ” Love says. “It’s better that they’re here.”

Mukogawa was established 10 years ago on the wooded grounds of the turn-of-the-century Ft. George Wright, a former Army fort and defunct Catholic women’s college. It’s a branch of the prestigious Mukogawa Women’s University of Nishinomiya, Japan, Spokane’s sister city.

Students are sophomore English majors who spend about four months at the Spokane campus to immerse themselves in English and U.S. culture. The young women choose the quarter abroad on their way to careers in banking, government, education and technology.

Japanese officials chose Spokane, a city of 190,000 with a small minority population, in part because they felt it would be a safe environment for their students. That feeling of safety may have been the girls’ undoing, says Hiroshi Takaoka, executive vice president of Mukogawa in Spokane.

“Our students go shopping and meet many people downtown,” Takaoka says. “They meet so many people who are so kind.”

On the morning of Nov. 11, three students were waiting at a bus stop near campus when a woman drove up and offered them a ride downtown. The students told police they gratefully accepted.

But the students were then taken down a remote road and handcuffed, they told police. One woman, moved to a second car, apparently talked her kidnapper into releasing her at a downtown bus station, but the two others were taken to a house in the Spokane Valley, about 10 miles east of the city, and raped, police say. The young women were later pushed out of a car near their campus.

The community was outraged by the audacity of the abductions and their effect on the 1,100 foreign students enrolled in Spokane-area colleges.

City Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers went to Seattle to apologize personally to the Japanese consul last month and assure him that greater efforts would be made to protect the students.

“This area needs as much culture as we can get, and international students are an excellent way to get it,” says Spokane Police Chief Roger Bragdon. “This community has to send a message that we are a safe community.”

Bragdon, whose wife is of Japanese descent, was particularly sensitive to the risk of stigmatizing the victims. Police have asked reporters not to identify the students and have tried to minimize details of the assault. The victims have been described only by their ages, 18 to 20. Court documents refer to them only by their initials.

Three suspects Bragdon called “local jerks” were arrested Nov. 18 --after an anonymous e-mail tip--and have been charged with kidnapping, rape and assault.

Edmund F. Ball, 40, and David Dailey, 38, are jailed in lieu of $1 million bail each. Lana Vickery, 43, is held on $750,000 bail.

Each is charged with three counts of first-degree kidnapping, two counts of first-degree rape and two counts of intimidating a witness--the victims say they were told their captors were videotaping the rapes and would send the tape to their fathers in Japan if the women reported the attack.

All have pleaded not guilty. Trial is set for Jan. 22.

Dailey told police he and Ball were involved in a group called the “Bondage Discipline Sadist Masochist Club” that held regular group sex parties at the Spokane Valley house, court documents said.

Vickery told police it was Ball’s idea to target Asian students because he believed they would be submissive and would not go to police for fear of dishonoring their families.

Ball spent some time in Japan as an exchange student, and police found books on Japanese language and culture in his home, documents said.

Despite the arrests, police are under a cloud because they failed to alert the public to a similar abduction just two weeks before--an attack in which Dailey and Vickery have now been charged with attempted first-degree kidnapping.

In that case, two Japanese students from nearby Eastern Washington University were walking near downtown Spokane on Oct. 28 when they accepted a ride from a man and a woman. They were shocked with a stun gun but managed to escape and call police, court documents say.

The officer who interviewed them, however, failed to file a police report, and detectives were not alerted. The incident was basically ignored until the abduction of the Mukogawa students two weeks later.

When the first abduction was made public, police initially said the language barrier had prevented a more thorough investigation. The department has since said it is conducting an internal review of what went wrong.

One prominent educator called the lapse “incompetence and gross negligence.”

Terry Brown, who was instrumental in bringing Mukogawa to Spokane when he was head of Community Colleges of Spokane, says police should have told Mukogawa officials about the earlier abductions so they could have warned their students.

Brown is urging the council to demand Bragdon’s resignation.