Man set for trial in alleged homicide
Accused killer allegedly offered experts incriminating information
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A 23-year-old former termite exterminator is scheduled to go on trial tomorrow for the alleged killing of missing Japanese visitor Masumi Watanabe.
The prosecution's case against Kirk Matthew Lankford is circumstantial, because Watanabe's body hasn't been found. But in an unusual twist, the defense said in court documents that its expert witnesses were given information by Lankford that "could be used by the prosecution to prove at least two elements of murder by omission and one element of murder by commission."
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The missing Japanese visitor last was seen April 12 in Pupukea
A man accused of killing a missing Japanese visitor gave defense experts information that could be used against him, according to court documents.
Kirk Matthew Lankford, 23, is charged with second-degree murder in the presumed death of Masumi Watanabe. His trial is scheduled to start tomorrow in state court.
Watanabe, 21, last was seen April 12 on Pupukea Road.
Lankford told police he was working in the Pupukea area the day Watanabe disappeared, but he told them he did not know or see her.
At the time of Watanabe's disappearance, Lankford worked as a pest control technician for Hauoli Termite and Pest Control. A Hauoli manager said Lankford returned to work on the day Watanabe disappeared with a cracked windshield on the front passenger side of his work truck, claiming that a bird caused the damage.
An Oahu grand jury charged Lankford with murder by commission for causing the death of Watanabe and/or murder by omission for not seeking medical help for her knowing that she was the subject of a crime and was suffering serious physical harm.
Lankford's lawyer Don Wilkerson had unsuccessfully tried to persuade Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto to drop the murder by omission charge, arguing that the state did not present evidence to the grand jury that Watanabe suffered serious bodily injury.
Wilkerson has listed as possible witnesses for Lankford's defense an accident reconstruction expert and a forensic pathologist.
In court documents filed last month to prevent City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle from interviewing those witnesses before trial, Wilkerson said the witnesses have information provided by his client that, if revealed before trial, "could be used by the prosecution to prove at least two elements of murder by omission and one element of murder by commission."
Wilkerson said he might choose not to present those witnesses. And if the prosecution presented that information in trial, that would violate his client's right to remain silent.
It is not clear whether Wilkerson will call his witnesses to the stand.
"I'm leaving it all open, (as to) what I'm going to do," Wilkerson said.
Because there is no body, the prosecution's case depends on circumstantial evidence. According to its list of witnesses and exhibits, the evidence will include: testimony from a woman who saw Watanabe get into a Hauoli company truck on Pupukea Road; tire impressions from Lankford's work truck and castings of tire impressions found just off Pupukea Road where the witness said she saw the Hauoli truck; Watanabe's DNA from blood and prescription glasses recovered from Lankford's work truck; company invoices, billing, trip documents and Global Positioning System maps; and a record of purchases and surveillance video from Foodland Pupukea store.
Watanabe was staying with a host family in Pupukea when she disappeared. Her host mother told the grand jury Watanabe routinely went with her when she dropped off her children at school in the morning. On the way back, she said she dropped Watanabe off at the base of Pupukea Road near Foodland for a 30- to 40-minute walk home.
The host reported Watanabe missing when she did not return.
Police searched several Windward Oahu locations for Watanabe from tips they received following her disappearance.
The day after she disappeared, a man called police and told them he confronted a man digging a hole by flashlight near Kahana Bay about midnight. The witness told the grand jury the man was wearing what appeared to be brand-new coveralls and gloves and identified himself as Matt Ford.
When the witness said he would like the man to talk to police, the witness said the man abruptly gathered his items and left. The witness jotted down the license number of the man's pickup truck, which belonged to Lankford.