Lawyer hints death was accident
Kirk Lankford's attorney says pressure at work might have caused his behavior
If accused killer Kirk Matthew Lankford did accidentally hit presumed victim Masumi Watanabe with his company truck, he might have concealed the incident for fear of losing his job, his lawyer suggested yesterday.
Lankford, 23, is on trial in the death of Watanabe, 21, who was last seen April 12 last year walking mauka on Pupukea Road.
Under questioning from Lankford's lawyer, Don Wilkerson, Lankford's former boss at Hauoli Termite & Pest Control, George Ofsonka, confirmed that he had issued two warnings to Lankford about his work performance.
The first warning, on Feb. 16, 2006, was for driving his company truck too close to the shoulder lane. The second, on Jan. 15 last year, was for not turning in his daily activity sheets on time. The second warning also came with a threat of suspension or discharge for the next infraction.
Lankford told police he was in the Pupukea area for work on the day Watanabe disappeared but that he did not know or see her.
Watanabe's host previously testified that she dropped off Watanabe on Pupukea Road at about 9:20 that morning, and another witness testified she saw Watanabe enter a Hauoli truck on Pupukea Road at about 9:40.
Receipts retrieved from customers Lankford serviced that morning show he was at a home in Pupukea from 8:55 to 9:20 a.m. and at another North Shore home from 10:45 to 11:10 a.m.
However, the paperwork Lankford turned in to the company shows the times had been altered to show him at the Pupukea home from 8:55 to 9:30 a.m. and at the next customer from 10 to 11:15 a.m.
David Patacsil, Lankford's supervisor at Hauoli, testified that those jobs should have taken 15 to 20 minutes each.
Patacsil also said that when Lankford returned to the company's base yard in Mapunapuna at the end of the day, his company truck had a cracked windshield, which Lankford attributed to an impact with a bird.
"I said, 'I hate to see the bird,'" Patacsil said.
He said the crack was on the passenger side and was unusual because it did not show a point of impact, but about a 5-inch-diameter circle of impact.
Wilkerson did not give an opening statement when the trial started on Monday and has only hinted at his defense strategy in his questions to prosecution witnesses.
When he complained to presiding Judge Karl Sakamoto that he only received information of Patacsil's impending testimony on Monday, Prosecutor Peter Carlisle fired back that because Wilkerson has not revealed his defense, he has had to anticipate a possible defense claim that Watanabe's death was an accident.
"My defense is the state's inability to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt," Wilkerson said, noting that he does not have to provide any details beyond that.