The Japanese parents of Michiyo Nakada, who would be 26 this summer, have one more trip to take.
They have already visited the Tokyo grave of their daughter, brutally slain four years ago behind a maze of garden apartments in Prince George's County, and told her that an American jury convicted a rapist from Alabama, out on parole at the time of the crime, for her murder.
Now they must tell her that the convicted man, Howard Hines, received two life sentences for the crime, making him eligible for parole again, but perhaps not for 50 years.
Fukuichi and Kikuko Nakada, Michiyo's parents, sat through Hines' trial earlier this year. It is Japanese custom, they said, for the parents of a slain child to reveal to the deceased information surrounding the crime.
"It is extremely painful," Kikuko Nakada said through an interpreter earlier this year. "We are listening for Michiyo--to hear what happened."
Children who live in the Hyattsville apartments behind Prince George's Plaza can still tell you where "the Japanese girl," as they call her, was killed.
They point to a path, a shortcut really, that winds up a steep wooded slope from a road called High View Terrace to the apartment building where Michiyo Nakada lived.
Nakada, a 22-year-old University of Maryland student, took that path home on June 21, 1979. She was attacked beneath a tall tree halfway up the hill, dragged into the underbrush, sexually assaulted, stabbed and set on fire. Little children found her body soon afterward.
Last month her father, a medical school professor in Okinawa, and her mother visited the spot where their daughter died. Kikuko Nakada brought some of the cookies her daughter enjoyed as a child, and four flowers, one each for Michiyo's brother and grandmother as well as for the parents. She placed the gifts at the base of the tree where detectives had first found drops of Michiyo's blood.
By placing gifts where their daughter died, the Nakadas were doing what thousands of Japanese families do each year in Hiroshima, according to Shojo Honda, a Buddhist priest working in Washington. "They came a long way," Honda said. "But that's been going on in Japan for centuries."
The Nakada family first came to the United States in 1968 and stayed for two years, when Fukuichi Nakada was a visiting scientist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda.
Michiyo Nakada attended Carl Sandburg Elementary School in Rockville and then the former Broom Junior High.
Kikuko Nakada said Michiyo, like the rest of the family, was "impressed with the quality of life" in the United States, and returned in 1975 to study journalism at the University of Maryland. She later switched to clinical psychology.
Kikuko Nakada and her family were at home in Okinawa eating dinner when they heard of their daughter's death, broadcast by a local television station.
"I doubted my eyes and I doubted my ears," Kikuko Nakada said last month, noting that such crimes are extremely rare in Japan.
Japan's murder rate is 1.4 per 100,000 people, according to a spokesman in the cultural affairs section of the Japanese embassy. The rate in the United States is 10 times that.
"Michiyo had called home about two weeks prior to the tragedy," her mother continued. "It was the last time I heard her voice."
Since their daughter's murder, the Nakadas are "emotionally crippled," Makio Murayama, a friend and biochemist at NIH, said yesterday.
In December of 1981, a year after the murder, the father could not even perform the ritual of laying food before the memorial altar, Murayama said. And at a meeting of biochemists last summer, the father told the audience he was unable to present his speech, according to Murayama, later explaining that he was still grieving for his daughter.
"Dr. Nakada used to love to drive and to work on cars. Now his wife drives him everywhere." Murayama said. "He is now unable to perform as a father, a husband or a professor."
Another family friend, who asked not to be identified, said the Nakadas have steadfastly refused to specify what punishment they believe Howard Hines should receive. However, Kikuko Nakada "was somewhat relieved" that Hines was likely to receive at least two consecutive life sentences, the friend said.
The death of their daughter has not made the Nakadas like Americans less, he added. "They are philosophical about it. It's one of those things that happen they say, adding but why did it happen to my daughter?"