Prosecutor asks whether Lankford tailored his story
Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle wants to know whether murder defendant Kirk Matthew Lankford used police evidence, exhibits and witness testimony he received before trial to fashion his account over what happened to missing Japanese visitor Masumi Watanabe.
Lankford, 23, is on trial in Circuit Court in the death of Watanabe, 21, who was last seen April 12 last year.
Carlisle asked for and received permission from Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto to ask Lankford under oath what information about the case he received before trial and from where he received it, "considering the sequence of statements that the defendant has made."
Carlisle asked Lankford how he learned that it was high tide when he set Watanabe's body adrift off Kualoa. The high tide could explain why the area's waves and onshore winds did not push the body to shore.
Lankford said he did not know the tide was high when he set Watanabe's body adrift, but learned later that was the case from his lawyer Don Wilkerson. He also said he did not hear any waves or feel any current when he was in the water.
He said when he arrived in Kualoa, Watanabe's body was already folded and sealed in three heavy-duty trash bags. He kicked off his shoes and socks while still cradling the bag with both arms, he said, then walked into the water.
Lankford says Watanabe died when she dived out of his moving truck and struck her head on a rock. He says he tried to cover up what happened.
Initially, he said, he had planned to bury her at Kahana Bay. But that plan was foiled because he brought the wrong kind of shovel and because someone confronted him there.
He disagreed with Carlisle, who characterized the plan to bury Watanabe's body as "very premeditated."
"I had less than a day to think about it -- probably why it didn't go so well," he said.
Carlisle then asked him, "If you had more time, you would have done better?"
"I would hope so," Lankford replied.
He said he cleaned the tailgate of his work truck several times to remove any trace of Watanabe's blood. And he said he placed bags under her body in one of the truck's covered compartments to catch any more blood. But he said he did not clean the inside of the cab because he did not know there was blood in there.
Police found traces of blood in the cab with DNA that matched Watanabe's.
Had he known blood was there, Lankford said, he would have cleaned the cab. Lankford said he believes the blood in the cab came from scratches Watanabe received on at least one of her hands when she fell to the ground after his truck accidentally hit her.