Skip to main content

American arrested in death of Irish woman in Tokyo hotel room

By Kyung Lah, CNN
updated 8:07 AM EDT, Fri June 15, 2012
Nicola Furlong, 21, was found dead in a Tokyo hotel room, police said.
Nicola Furlong, 21, was found dead in a Tokyo hotel room, police said.
  • Police decline to name the 19-year-old murder suspect because of his age
  • Nicola Furlong, an Irish exchange student, was found dead in a Tokyo hotel
  • A second American, James Blackston, is charged with groping the dead woman's friend
  • Blackston's lawyer says his client is not guilty and will fight the charges

Tokyo (CNN) -- Japanese authorities are holding an American man on suspicion of killing a female Irish exchange student in Tokyo, a police spokesman said Friday.

Police charged a second American man with groping the dead woman's friend.

Nicola Furlong, 21, died in a hotel room in the presence of one of the men last month, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

The 19-year-old man, whom police declined to identify because he's considered a minor under Japanese law, was arrested on suspicion of murder, a spokesman for the Tokyo police said Friday.

The man, a musician, had been previously detained on suspicion of improperly touching Furlong's friend, but was not charged with that offense. The police have 20 days to decide whether to charge him with murder.

Who killed an Irish student in Tokyo?
Nicola Furlong's family devastated

The other American man, James Blackston, 23, has been charged with groping the friend, said Tsutomu Nakamura, his lawyer.

Blackston, a dancer from the Los Angeles area, faces up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted. His lawyer said he is not guilty and will fight the charges.

He is alleged to have improperly touched the woman during a taxi ride with Furlong and the 19-year-old man to the hotel where the victim died.

Authorities have not said how the four ended up together, but Japanese media have reported that the women were attending a Nicki Minaj concert in Tokyo when they met the men and decided to accompany them to their hotel rooms.

The hotel staff went to the room after customers complained of loud noises coming from it, police said.

When the staff entered the room, they found Furlong unconscious in the company of the 19-year-old and called the fire department, according to authorities.

The death is believed to be a result of suffocation by cervical compression, the police said.

Furlong's parish priest, the Rev. Jim Fitzpatrick, described her last month as an "outgoing, bubbly sort of girl and very well liked." He said she had been looking forward to coming home after being in Japan since October.

Everyone in Furlong's close-knit rural community, which has only 300 or 400 families, was devastated by the news of her death, according to the priest.

"When the death of a young person happens, everybody knows and is in some way involved or concerned," Fitzpatrick said. "When it happens in tragic circumstances and so far away from home, it has a double impact on people."

Her parents last spoke to her the day she died, he said.

Police: Two Americans arrested after Irish woman's death in Tokyo

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.