Inside Texas cold cases: A young Japanese student strangled, her body burned just hours after partying with friends

Mikiko Kasahara (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

SEGUIN, Texas – Texas has its share of homicide cases that have gone cold.

While some have heated up and been solved when people come forward or evidence is retested, other cases remain on the books without answers for families whose loved ones were lost.

KPRC 2 is taking a look back at both the solved and unsolved cases featured by the Texas Department of Public Safety to acknowledge the ability to solve cold cases and perhaps seek justice in cases that remain cold.

The last time anyone besides her killer saw Mikiko Kasahara alive she was bubbly about her college grades at a party held in her college apartment.

READ MORE Inside Texas Cold Cases: Solved -- Eglena Diaz DeLeon


On Dec. 13, 2002, the Texas Lutheran University student celebrated the end of her school term with a small group of friends at her Seguin apartment into the wee hours of the following morning. It was a high moment for the young Japanese woman -- only 21 -- who expected excellent grades for her freshman fall term.

Mikiko Kasahara (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

The next time people saw Kasahara -- the following morning after a neighbor reported a fire -- she was unrecognizable, a skeleton pulled from her burned-out apartment in the 900 block of San Antonio Avenue. She had been partying with friends not three hours, earlier.

In the time between seeing her friends and the neighbor noticing the fire, Kasahara had been strangled and suffered “numerous” other injuries. After she’d died, someone lit her body on fire.

Police told local media at the time of Kasahara’s death that DNA would have to be used if dental records could not identify her, so badly was her body burned.

In the weeks following her death, reports detailed the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office findings. Officials indicated that a bone in Kasahara’s larynx was broken at the joint, and another joint was fused. In addition, she had “profound injury with much hemorrhage within the pelvis,” but that remains a mystery due to the burned state of her body.

In its official report, the office found Kasahara “died as a result of homicidal violence including, but not limited to strangulation.” No alcohol or drugs were found in her body. Read more on the report from The Seguin Gazette.

Questions linger

Law enforcement said in various reports that there were several people of interest in the case, and while some were eliminated, others remain suspects.

In 2005, then-Seguin Police Chief Luis Collazo revealed the most detail about the killer in the reporting we reviewed about the case. Collazo told the publication that he believes the person who killed Kasahara was a man, but, as the report noted, “stopped short of referring to the murder as a crime of passion.”

Seguin Police Department Detective Jaime Diaz told KPRC 2 that in the years since the crime, authorities recreated the crime scene and a burned laptop from the scene was processed for information. Authorities, he said, found Asian female porn on the computer that was accessed around the time of Kasahara’s murder. However, no physical evidence could be retrieved from the computer’s surface due to its condition after the fire.

The case goes cold -- and stays that way

Kasahara’s murder has never been solved, though many detectives have taken up the case and tried for years -- with personal, passionate interest in the case -- to crack it.

In particular, Maureen Watson -- a now-retired captain of the Seguin Police Department -- worked the case for a considerable amount of time, collecting thick binders of information on the case that she regularly reviewed. The case reportedly left her sleepless, haunting her every December as the anniversary drew near.

Watson met the Kasahara family when they visited Texas Lutheran University. Watson told a reporter in 2005 that the family has forgiven the killer -- and only asks for an apology and explanation. That only spurred Watson on more.

“To me, this is as vivid today as it was the day I was called there,” Watson told The Seguin Gazette. “This is far from a cold case, and I won’t let it become a cold case. … I will not stop and this department will not stop, even if I go away, until this is solved or we have absolutely exhausted all our resources. This young girl deserves that.”

Do you know something?

Though the case did go cold, as it is now classified that way by the Department of Public Safety, Watson’s promise is being kept by Seguin law enforcement. Detective Diaz is following up on the case, though at this time there are no leads or physical evidence to follow up on. Diaz said he looks over the case when he can to see if he’s missed anything.

“I talk to the mom every year,” Diaz said. “She’s a doctor and she comes down from Japan to conferences every year. ... Nice lady. I can’t give her any good news."

Diaz said Kasahara was someone who didn’t seek out trouble, and was truly the victim of a heinous crime.

Diaz said Kashara’s mother gave him a good luck charm that he hangs in his home. It’s a reminder to him to go back and check over the case.

“I can’t let this one go,” he told KPRC. “I got to get back on that. ... We do remember. You learn so much about the victim. It’s almost like they’re a family member to you.”

If you have any information on this case, submit a tip through the Texas Rangers’ Cold Case website or call 1-800-346-3243. Your information will be forwarded to the Texas Ranger assigned to the case. A $3,000 reward is now offered. Go here for more information and details.

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.