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Latest Missing Person Video for masumi-watanabe
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Missing Masumi Watanabe
Watanabe, circa 2007; Kirk Matthew Lankford
Missing Since 04/12/2007
Classification Endangered Missing
Age 21 years old
Height and Weight 5'0, 100 pounds
Clothing/Jewelry Description A navy blue long-sleeved hooded sweater, a brown shirt, blue jeans and pink shoes.
Distinguishing Characteristics Asian female. Black hair, brown eyes. Watanabe is a native of Japan. She speaks Japanese and very little English. She has extremely poor vision, with both myopia and astigmatism, and wears silver-framed prescription eyeglasses.
Details of Disappearance Watanabe is a Japanese citizen who was visiting Hawaii in the spring of 2007. She was staying with a distant relative on the island of Oahu and volunteered at Sunset Beach Elementary School. She was last seen between 9:20 and at 10:00 a.m. on April 12, 2007, walking on Pupukea Road.
Witnesses saw Watanabe get inside a Hauoli Termite and Pest Control truck at the Pupukea Foodland. The vehicle was being driven by a Caucasian man. Watanabe looked "confused" at the time and was not speaking to the driver, although he was speaking to her. She has never been heard from again.
A witness reported seeing a man digging a hole near Kahana Bay at about midnight on April 12. The man claimed he was looking for a gold chain he had lost. The witness wrote down the man's vehicle's license plate number and it matched Lankford's personal truck, and the witness later identified Lankford in a police lineup.
Lankford's wife stated he left the house that evening, saying he was going to work a side job, and when he returned his socks were muddy. She later recanted her statement.
Lankford had no criminal convictions as an adult, though he did have a record as a juvenile, and he is described as deeply religious and a devoted father and husband. The indictment charged him with second-degree murder and accused him of either knowingly killing Watanabe, or knowingly harming her and allowing her to die without rendering aid.
Lankford says he panicked afterwards and disposed of her body. He said he tried to bury it, but after he was caught digging the grave, he dumped the body in the ocean instead. He explained he did not call rescue workers or the police because he had previously been disciplined by his employer for poor driving, and was afraid he would be fired if he reported the accident.
Prosecution experts at the trial described Lankford's version of events as "impossible." A crash re-creation expert said Watanabe would have had severe injuries if she was hit by a truck, but Lankford says Watanabe was only scratched on her arms and hands.
The truck's side mirror and antenna were intact, and they should have been damaged if Lankford had run into Watanabe as he said. In addition, no blood was found in the truck bed, where Lankford said he put Watanabe's body, and no blood was found on any rocks in the area where he claims she sustained the fatal head injury. The rocks, however, were not tested for nearly a year after Watanabe's disappearance.
Prosecutors initially planned to seek the enhanced sentence for Lankford, but they decided against it in May 2008 after psychiatric experts determined Lankford did not a significant history of criminal violence, which is a requirement for the enhanced sentencing.
Watanabe's family continues to hope her body may be found. Investigators do not believe Lankford dumped it in the ocean as he said, since if he had the body would almost certainly have washed up on shore. Her remains may be buried somewhere on the island.
Watanabe is described as a shy, artistic young woman who loves drawing, especially dogs and other animals. She normally lived with her family on rural Sado Island in Japan. Her body has not been recovered, but foul play is suspected in her disappearance due to the circumstances involved.
Investigating Agency / Department