Chilean suspect jailed in French murder case of Japanese

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Chilean national Nicolas Zepeda sits in the back seat of a car in police custody as the vehicle departs the courthouse in Besancon, eastern France, early Saturday July 25, 2020. Zepeda, 29, who was extradited from Chile, was ordered jailed by a judge in Besancon after hours of deliberation while the investigation continues. The prosecutor in Besancon, where Narumi Kurosaki had been studying, said the extradition of the suspect was a "new start" for the investigation. (AP Photo/Franck Lallemand)

PARIS – A Chilean man was order jailed in eastern France on Friday while he is investigated in the disappearance nearly four years ago of his ex-girlfriend, a Japanese student, in a case of suspected murder spanning continents but in which the body has not been found.

Nicolas Zepeda, 29, extradited from Chile earlier in the day, was ordered detained by a judge in Besancon after hours of deliberation.

The prosecutor in Besancon, where the missing Narumi Kurosaki had been studying, said the extradition of the suspect by Chile was a “new start” for the investigation even though Zepeda refused to answer questions of the investigating judge.

“He simply declared that he is innocent” and expressed hope the real killer would be found, prosecutor Etienne Manteau told reporters.

Being placed under investigation is a step short of formally being charged, under French legal procedure. Formal charges would come if the investigating judge concludes there is sufficient evidence to put the suspect on trial.

Manteau predicted a trial could be held next year.

It was a “major advance ... but it’s not over,” he said of the extradition. He himself had traveled to Chile as part of the murder probe.

The regional press, which has followed the investigation, has described a love affair that allegedly went awry. Zepeda reportedly had met Kurosaki in Japan then traveled to France to see her after she ended the relationship.