Exterminator Charged with Murder in North Shore Disappearance

Peter Carlisle
Peter Carlisle

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Even though her body has not been found, police charge a Kalihi man with killing Japanese exchange student Masumi Watanbe. Tonight breaking news in this investigation.

A Kalihi man is charged with murder today in the disappearance of the missing exchange student.

Neighbors describe suspect Kirk Lankford as a churchgoing family man, but today police charged him with murder.

Police charged the 22 year-old pest control worker with murder in the second degree. His bail is set at one million dollars.

Late this afternoon prosecutors laid out some specific details of the case. Even without the victim's body investigators say they have strong forensic evidence.

According to court documents:

A witness told police she saw the victim get into the suspect's pest control truck April 12th. That's the day she went missing

The suspect had a job that morning on Pupukea Road where the victim was last seen walking.

Police found eyeglasses matching her prescription and her DNA in the suspect's company truck.

Police recovered her DNA off the truck's passenger door panel.

The suspect's work truck windshield was cracked on the passenger side and he claimed a bird hit it.

A witness says he saw the suspect digging a hole at night at Kahana Bay.

Prosecutors won't comment on this evidence but say they've successfully prosecuted cases before when the victim's body is not recovered.

Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle states, "The fact that a murderer may successfully dispose of the body of a victim does not entitle him to avoid prosecution that is one form of success for which society has no reward. Production of the body is not a condition precedent for the prosecution for murder. "

The victim 21 year-old Masumi Watanabe disappeared on a walk April 12th in Pupukea. She was staying there with a host family.

Police and the community conducted extensive searches but still no sign of the missing woman now presumed murdered.

Lankford was arrested Thursday afternoon after a two week search into Watanabe's disappearance.

Lankford is charged with murder by commission and omission. Prosecutors explain this could mean he is either suspected of killing her or injuring her and failing to get her medical care. He reportedly asked for a lawyer when police tried to interview him.

The crime of murder in the second degree carries a life term.