MIKE BURLEY / MBURLEY@STARBULLETIN.COM
Fumiko Watanabe, left, mother of murder victim Masumi Watanabe, teared up as she read a statement directed at Kirk Matthew Lankford (far right) just before he was sentenced yesterday afternoon in Honolulu Circuit Court. Lankford received the maximum sentence for second-degree murder: life with the possibility of parole.
Visitor’s murderer gets life in prison
The Watanabe family pleads with Kirk Lankford to reveal the location of the body
Convicted murderer Kirk Matthew Lankford still contends he didn't kill Japanese visitor Masumi Watanabe.
Victim's family wants daughter's remains brought home to Japan.
A jury found Lankford, 23, guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Watanabe, 21, who was last seen alive April 12, 2007, and whose remains have not been found.
Whether Lankford admitted killing Watanabe didn't matter at his sentencing yesterday.
Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto told Lankford he is a predator who presents an extreme danger to the community. He then handed down the mandatory sentence for second-degree murder: life in prison with the possibility for parole.
City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said the life sentence is richly deserved for what Lankford did to Watanabe, her corpse and her parents, and for the shame he brought onto the people of Hawaii.
Lankford claims Watanabe died when she dove out of his moving work truck and hit her head on a rock. He said he kept her body concealed in the truck for nearly 12 hours before he folded it up and stuffed it into some trash bags.
It will be up to the Hawaii Paroling Authority to determine how much prison time Lankford will have to serve before he is eligible for parole.
"The court would expect that that term will be very, very long. And it is very unlikely that it will be shortened unless there is some showing of humanity or compassion upon your part," Sakamoto said.
He said Lankford can start by revealing where he put Watanabe's remains.
MIKE BURLEY / MBURLEY@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kirk Matthew Lankford, right, covered his face as he cried yesterday afternoon while his father, Howard Lankford, pleaded to the Circuit Court judge before his son's sentence was handed down for the murder of Japanese visitor Masumi Watanabe.
Lankford maintains that he disposed of the body in the ocean fronting the entrance to Kualoa Ranch.
Sakamoto said neither he nor the 12 jurors who convicted him in April believe his explanation of how Watanabe died and what he did with the body.
And neither do Watanabe's parents, who addressed Lankford in court yesterday through an interpreter. They begged him to tell them where he buried their daughter.
"It haunts me every day because I can hear Masumi calling for us to take her home. Her cry is incessant in my ear," said Hideichi Watanabe, the victim's father.
Her mother, Fumiko Watanabe, said, "We will know no peace until we can take our beloved daughter back to our family and give her a decent burial in Japan."
The Watanabes told Lankford they cannot forgive him for what he did.
"If they can't forgive him that's their choice," said Howard Lankford, Kirk's father. He said he believes his son didn't kill Watanabe. But he said he is troubled over how his son handled the situation and Watanabe's body.
The remains of Japanese visitor Masumi Watanabe, who was last seen alive April 12, 2007, have yet to be found.
"There's a disconnect that I'm concerned about," he said.
Lankford said his son is appealing his conviction and hopes to get a new trial at which the truth, as he knows it, will be accepted. In the meantime he said all he can do is stay close to his son so he doesn't turn into an animal in prison.
He says his son continues to agonize over the situation, which has been compounded by his inability to see his own children. His wife, Corinne Lankford, filed for divorce last month with the help of the Domestic Violence Action Center. They have two sons, 22 months and 11 months old.