Man Testifies He Caught Watanabe Murder Suspect Digging Hole

John Thoma
John Thoma

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- A man who says he saw murder suspect Kirk Lankford digging a hole the night Japanese tourist Masumi Watanabe disappeared testified at the trial Friday.

A still grieving John Thoma tells jurors about a memorial he set up at Kahana Bay last year.

"Yes, my friend, my good friend Lynn had just got murdered at that location," he said.

Last April 12th, he saw someone near the memorial with a flashlight and a shovel. The 46-year-old says he walked up to the stranger because he thought it might have something to do with his girlfriend's case.

"How come you're digging here right now? 12 o'clock midnight on a Thursday night, it's kind of strange," Thoma said.

He identifies Kirk Lankford as the man he saw that night. The defendant is accused of killing 21-year-old Masumi Watanabe, a visitor from Japan.

Thoma says Lankford drove off in his truck after his digging was interrupted. But the admitted drug user took a knife and carved the license plate number on the street.

"I know I'm not good with remembering numbers," Thoma testified. "Four times I did it 'cause I didn't know if it was going to rain that night or somebody was to drive over it."

Using that information, police say they discovered the registered owner of the truck seen at Kahana Bay and the pest control technician working in Pupukea at the time of Watanabe's disappearance were the same person.

Thoma says the suspect never made a violent move towards him.

"I did have my back towards him one time when I was checking out a centipede, the biggest damn centipede I had ever seen," Thoma said. "And I didn't, yeah, he didn't."

The victim's body hasn't been found.

The trial continues Monday.