Prosecutors seek 120-year sentence for Lankford - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Prosecutors seek 120-year sentence for Lankford

Hideichi Watanabe Hideichi Watanabe
Kirk Lankford Kirk Lankford
Masumi Watanabe Masumi Watanabe
Prosecutor Peter Carlisle Prosecutor Peter Carlisle

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - It's a case that grabbed international attention. Now, the man convicted of murdering Japanese tourist Masumi Watanabe on Oahu's North Shore two years ago is hoping for mercy from the Hawaii parole board.

Describing him as a dangerous sociopath, Honolulu's chief prosecutor on Tuesday asked the parole board to set Kirk Lankford's minimum prison sentence at 120 years.

Hideichi and Fumiko Watanabe arrive at Halawa Correctional Facility to face their only daughter's killer.

"We cannot begin to describe the pain this has caused our family," the victim's father said through an interpreter.

The victim's parents present more than 35,000 petitions from residents of Japan and Oahu, urging the Hawaii parole board to keep Kirk Lankford locked up for the rest of his life.

"To take people's life is the biggest infringement of human life," Hideichi Watanabe said. "We believe a murderer should not be paroled."

Lankford, a former pest control technician, maintains it wasn't murder.

He says he was giving Masumi Watanabe a ride after his work truck struck her arm. He tells the board the 21-year-old died after she panicked and jumped out of the moving vehicle.

He says he kept her in the back of his truck all day, and later dumped her body in the ocean, because he was afraid to lose his job.

The victim's body hasn't been found.

"I did not carry out a murder on your daughter," Lankford said to the Watanabes. "I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm so sorry for what I have deprived you of, a burial, a funeral that you deserve to have."

But prosecutors say the convicted murderer has a history of preying on the vulnerable and weak, and that Lankford's own wife provided details of abusive behavior.

"My whole relation was based on you listen to what I say and you do what I tell you to do," Peter Carlisle, Honolulu prosecutor, read from a document. "There was hitting. There was abuse of animals."

"I did not do that to your daughter," Lankford told the victim's parents. "I hope you know that she did not suffer. I did not torture your daughter."

"We're going to set your minimum, sir," Albert Tufono, Hawaii Paroling Authority chair, said. "And what we have in front of us just screams out long minimum."

The parole board is expected to issue its decision in about a month.

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