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Lankford gets 150-year jail term


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POSTED: Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fumiko Watanabe was overcome with tears of joy after she received word that the man convicted of murder in her daughter's disappearance must serve 150 years before he is eligible for parole, according to Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle.

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“;It's very justly deserved,”; Carlisle said yesterday of the lengthy minimum sentence set Thursday by the Hawaii Paroling Authority.

Kirk Lankford, 24, was sentenced in July to life in prison with the possibility of parole after being convicted of second-degree murder in the death of 21-year-old visitor Masumi Watanabe. Carlisle had asked the parole board for a 120-year minimum, describing Lankford as a sociopath with no regard for other people's lives.

“;Mr. Lankford's behavior after the victim died, displayed a high degree of coldness and callousness. This unconscionable behavior is viewed very seriously by the parole board,”; said Albert Tufono, chairman of the Hawaii Paroling Authority, in a written statement.

Under current guidelines, Lankford must serve at least 50 years before he can ask for a reduction in his sentence.

Watanabe was last seen on April 12, 2007. Lankford said he accidentally hit her with his Hauoli Termite and Pest Control truck on Pupukea Road. He said he had her get into the truck so he could drive her to her host family's house, but she got worried, jumped from the truck, hit her head and died.

He said he was worried he would lose his job over the incident, so he put her body in plastic garbage bags and threw the bags in the ocean off Kualoa. Her body was never found.

Attorney Don Wilkerson, who represents Lankford, said it was unlawful for the parole board to come to a decision without allowing Lankford to respond to some false allegations made by the prosecutor's office. “;They didn't care what he had to say,”; he said. Wilkerson plans to appeal the decision.