Man Charged With Murdering Japanese Tourist Takes Witness Stand

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- For the first time, the Kalihi man accused of murdering Japanese tourist Masumi Watanabe spoke publicly about the case. Kirk Lankford took the witness stand in his own defense Wednesday.

Dressed in a coat and tie, the defendant was well spoken and shed tears during his testimony. He told jurors about his job, about his family, and about the day he and the 21-year-old victim crossed paths.

After servicing one of his customers, the pest control technician says he was passing time until his next appointment by familiarizing himself with the roads in Pupukea. Suddenly, he says, Masumi Watanabe stepped in front of his truck, forcing him to slam on his brakes and swerve.

"Kind of sideswiped the person," Lankford said. "Looked like the person tried to push off the side. When she did that, it appeared one of her arms caught the window."

He says he stopped and offered her a ride.

"She didn't seem like she was hurt that bad. She said that she was okay," he testified. "I was hoping I could just give her a ride to where she was going and maybe the company wouldn't have to find out."

He says during the ride, she became upset and dove out of the truck.

"I got out and I looked at her, and her head was really messed up," the defendant said. "I didn't know what to do."

"What did you do?" Donald Wilkerson, defense attorney, asked.

"Not the right thing," Lankford replied.

The young husband and father says he didn't notify police or his boss because he was in shock, and was afraid he would lose his job. He admits he's the one on surveillance video purchasing supplies to dispose of the body.

"Just a hundred things are running through my mind," Lankford said. "I'm thinking, man, this is terrible. I totally messed up this whole situation."

Lankford says he kept Watanabe's body in the back of his truck while he continued working that day, and while he attended church that night, and finally dumped her in waters off Kualoa.

He'll undergo cross examination Thursday.