More than two weeks after the arrest of 25-year-old Saki Sudo on suspicion of murdering her wealthy older husband — an author who dubbed himself the “Don Juan of Kishu,” the former name of the Wakayama area — police have yet to reveal whether the suspect has admitted to the charges.

While investigators say they have circumstantial evidence against her, no witnesses have come forward and their time to build a case is running short due to an apparent lack of clear evidence. Prosecutors face a May 19 deadline by which time they must either formally charge Sudo or release her. That deadline cannot be extended.

Kosuke Nozaki, who was 77 at the time of his death, was a self-made billionaire who owned a liquor sales company and real estate business. He achieved brief fame in 2016 when, in his autobiography, he claimed to have given ¥3 billion to 4,000 women. In a follow-up 2018 book, Nozaki said he met Sudo, who described herself as a fashion model. Nozaki married the 22-year-old Sudo in February of that year, promising to give her a monthly allowance of ¥1 million.

Three months later, on the evening of May 24, Nozaki was found dead at his home in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture. An autopsy showed stimulant drugs in his system.

Although Sudo had reportedly been alone with him at the time of his death, she was not immediately arrested due to a lack of witnesses and clear evidence of her involvement. But on April 28, three years after his death, police arrested Sudo at her Tokyo home and transferred her to Wakayama.

Police suspect she poisoned Nozaki in the hope of inheriting some of his estate. The city of Tanabe had announced Nozaki was planning to give his property, worth ¥1.3 billion, to the city, but Sudo would have gotten an undisclosed portion of the estate.

Police sent Saki Sudo to the public prosecutor's office in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecuture, on April 29. | KYODO
Police sent Saki Sudo to the public prosecutor’s office in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecuture, on April 29. | KYODO

Police say Sudo was alone with Nozaki on the evening of his death for at least four hours, from the time a housekeeper left the house after preparing dinner until the housekeeper returned later that evening. No one else was seen on surveillance cameras entering the home during the time Sudo and Nozaki were alone, police say. Neither Sudo nor a representative for her has spoken publicly about the case since her arrest.

Nozaki collapsed and died at around 9 p.m. that evening, after the housekeeper had returned. The amount of stimulant drugs found in his stomach were enough to kill him.

No habitual use of stimulants by either Nozaki or Sudo has been uncovered. But police said she had researched stimulants online before his death and is believed to have met a drug dealer, based on an analysis of her smartphone.

Other possibilities for Nozaki’s death, including suicide, appear unlikely, police say. They point to the fact that Nozaki was planning to attend a funeral for his dog, who had recently died.

With no one having seen what happened, and no way to prove whether Nozaki took the stimulants himself or swallowed them unknowingly, it has been difficult for prosecutors to move forward without clear evidence of a murder and the case has languished.

A revelation by a weekly tabloid magazine in January that Sudo was planning to move to Dubai may have been the catalyst for her April 28 arrest. Local media, quoting anonymous police sources, said that the report amounted to clearer proof of the allegation that Sudo had planned and committed the murder for Nozaki’s money, and an arrest warrant was issued.

Without further evidence to prosecute Sudo for murder, she will likely be released on May 19, the end of the 23-day period during which suspects can be held without charge.

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