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Airman's death called murder by police

Date Posted: 2011-02-11

Japanese police are indicating the Sunday death of an Air Force technical sergeant was a homicide after studying the crime scene in Chatan Town's Mihama District.

Tech. Sgt. Curtis Evan Eccleston's body was discovered early Sunday afternoon by a friend visiting the Kadena airman's apartment. Both U.S. military authorities-including the Air Force Office of Special Investigations-and Japanese police responded to the fourth floor apartment a short walk from Camp Lester. Police say an autopsy showed Eccleston was stabbed in the neck and bled to death.

The 30-year-old Eccleston, assigned to Kadena's 733rd Air Mobility Squadron, lived at the apartment with his wife. Police say there was no sign of a struggle in the apartment. The friend who discovered Eccleston's body laying on the floor told police the apartment was not locked when he arrived shortly after noon Sunday. Police say Eccleston was stabbed, with the knife cut about 6cm long, but that there was no weapon found at the scene.

A joint investigation by U.S. and Japanese police is under way, following procedures outlined in the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. By definition, American authorities have the lead, with a supporting investigation by Okinawa Prefectural Police.

Authorities are not commenting on reports from neighbors of an argument at the apartment some time before dawn Sunday. Other neighbors told police a group of 4-5 foreign men and a woman were making noise in the building's parking lot about 1 a.m. Sunday.

The scene is only a few meters from Chatan Town Kuwae Junior High School. Nearby is the Mihama shopping district.

Based on rigor mortis of Eccleston's body, police believe the death came about dawn Sunday, 6-7 hours before his body was found.

Colonel Ricky Rupp, Kadena Air Base 18th Wing Vice Commander, called the death "a tragic loss for the members of Team Kadena. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his family and friends."

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