Kirk Lankford receives life sentence for murder of Japanese tourist


Kirk Matthew Lankford was sentenced to life in prison this morning for the April 2007 murder of Japanese visitor Masumi Watanabe.

Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto called Lankford “a predator” and City Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle called him “sociopathic” and “psychopathic.”

The judge, prosecutor and the parents of the victim all indicated that they do not believe Lankford’s testimony at trial that he disposed of the victim’s remains by carrying the body several hundred yards offshore of a windward Oahu beach and releasing it.

Sakamoto said Lankford, who will be eligible for parole at some point in the future, could reduce his prison sentence by telling authorities where he buried the remains of his victim.

Hideichi and Fumiko Watanabe, parents of the 21-year-old victim, both addressed Lankford and asked him to reveal her burial site.

“I believe Masumi is resting in the soil of Oahu,” Hideichi Watanabe said through an interpreter.

“It haunts me every day because I can hear Masumi calling for us to take her home; her cry is incessant in my ear,” he said.

Lankford apologized to the Watanabes for the pain his actions caused them. “I shouldn’t have done what I did,” he said.

But he did not recant trial testimony that the victim’s death was an accident and that he tossed her body in the ocean after trying unsuccessfully to bury her.

Lankford’s father, Howard Lankford, told Sakamoto, “I know in my heart he did not kill” the victim, calling his 23-year-old son “loving, kind and generous.”

For more than a year, Lankford denied ever meeting Watanabe but changed his story when he took the witness stand in his own defense. He said he accidentally sideswiped her with his truck while she was walking up Pupukea Road on Oahu’s North Shore, injuring her slightly.

Lankford claimed that he tried to drive Watanabe to her residence but could not communicate with her because of language differences. She became agitated, dove out of the truck, hit her head on a roadside rock and died, Lankford claimed.

He said he decided to get rid of of the body because he was afraid of losing his job.

“You are a predator,” Sakamoto told Lankford this morning, calling him an “extreme danger to our community” whose crime warrants “a very, very long stay in prison.”

Sakamoto said it is unlikely Lankford will be paroled “unless there is a showing of compassion … a revelation of where Ms. Watanabe’s remains are.”