‘Find Masumi’ site recalls visitor case
A murder trial is set, but the woman's body has not been found
A new Web site announced yesterday is designed to ensure nobody forgets the search for a Japanese visitor missing since April.
Mortgage broker Bob Iinuma had followed the story of Masumi Watanabe since she was reported missing from the North Shore in April.
Around June he decided to try to make a difference by building a Web site to heighten awareness of the missing woman, now presumed murdered.
"If I didn't do anything about this, I would have to live with that choice," Iinuma said. "Let's say 20 years from now, she's still not found. That means I would have lived with the consequence of knowing I didn't do anything about it."
Watanabe was reported missing by her host family on April 12. She was last seen at about 10 a.m. that day walking mauka on Pupukea Road.
Kirk Lankford, a 22-year-old Kalihi man, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Although Watanabe's body has not been found, her glasses and blood were found in Lankford's work truck. She was also last seen getting into the truck.
Jury selection in Lankford's trial is scheduled for the first week of November. Prosecutors are confident there is enough to proceed with the case.
The Web site has a detailed time line of events and a map of the several areas police and volunteers have searched. Watanabe would be 22 today.
Iinuma, who is the past president of the United Japanese Society, has met with Watanabe's parents as recently as two weeks ago.
Iinuma said the parents, Hideichi and Fumiko Watanabe, do not plan to make any public appearances. Part of the reason he did the Web site was for it to act as a surrogate for the parents. There is also a board where one can post condolences to the parents.
"The father holds himself well," Iinuma said of the parents' composure. "The mom, she's full of expression, and she'll cry at any given moment."
The parents have visited Hawaii three times since her disappearance, in an effort to feel closer to their lost daughter.
"The mom, when they're here, she feels closer to Masumi," Iinuma said. "When they're back home in Japan, they just fall apart. That's why there's a need for them to come back."
On the Net: » www.findmasumi.org