updated 10/11/2008 2:22:05 PM ET 2008-10-11T18:22:05

A Japanese businessman accused of conspiring to have his wife murdered 27 years ago in Los Angeles has committed suicide in his jail cell, less than 24 hours after he set foot in the U.S. to answer to the charges.

Kazuyoshi Miura, 61, hanged himself with a piece of his shirt Friday night, police said. His attorney, Mark Geragos, was notified early Saturday by prosecutors in the case about his client's death.

"I'm shocked," Geragos, who was in Italy, told The Associated Press in a telephone call. "One of my lawyers was with him for 12 hours yesterday and he seemed in good spirits. He was looking forward to fighting this."

Chief of Detectives Charlie Beck said Miura's body was discovered during a routine cell inspection at 9:45 p.m. Medical personnel were summoned and Miura was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, Beck said.

Miura arrived in Los Angeles on Friday after a trip from the U.S. commonwealth of Saipan, where he had been held since his February arrest on a 1988 Los Angeles County warrant alleging murder and conspiracy.

He was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

His wife's death plot
Miura was accused of plotting to have his wife killed during a visit the couple made to Los Angeles in 1981. A bullet hit Miura in the leg, and his wife, Kazumi Miura, 28, was shot in the head. She died of her wounds a year later in Japan.

Los Angeles County prosecutors contended Miura wanted his wife dead so he could collect about $750,000 on her life insurance policies. They argued that he signaled someone to shoot the couple, although no one else has been charged.

The case remains a huge story in Japan, where the media has for decades reported its every twist and turn.

After the 1988 arrest warrant was issued, prosecutors in Los Angeles decided to work with Japanese authorities instead of trying to have him extradited. He was convicted of murder in Japan in 1994, but the verdict ultimately was overturned and Japan's highest court issued an acquittal.

Fighting extradition
Earlier this week, prosecutors filed court papers seeking reinstatement of the murder charge. The 25-page motion argued that the law did not recognize convictions or acquittals outside of the United States.

However, Superior Court Judge Steven Van Sicklen ruled that trying Miura for murder in California would violate a law against double jeopardy.

Miura had fought extradition but agreed to return to Los Angeles after the murder charge was dismissed — although conviction on the conspiracy charge could have resulted in 25 years to life in state prison.

Geragos said he has contacted the Japanese consulate and asked them to notify Miura's current wife.

"She was on her way to Los Angeles and was to meet with me on Wednesday," he said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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