Attorneys Deliver Closing Arguments in Lankford Murder Trial

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- The fate of a Kalihi man accused of murdering Japanese tourist Masumi Watanabe is now in the hands of an Oahu jury. Attorneys from both sides delivered their closing arguments Thursday.

Even though the trial has lasted about a month, and has involved dozens of witnesses and more than 100 exhibits, prosecutors tell jurors it's not a complicated case, and it all comes down to the defendant's credibility.

"Cold, calculating, premed, premeditated planning on the disposal and destruction of evidence," Peter Carlisle, Honolulu prosecutor, said while describing defendant Kirk Lankford's actions.

Lankford admits Masumi Watanabe was in his work truck, but says the 21-year-old visitor died after she panicked and dove out of the vehicle as it was going 35 to 40 miles per hour.

The pest control technician testified he kept her in a box in the back of his truck for 12 hours, while he serviced his customers and even attended church.

"Good touchy feely thing, holding my son at church, sleeping," Carlisle said while recalling the defendant's statements. "And the reality is he's got somebody stuffed in a bait box who he's got to get rid of."

Lankford says he bought supplies, including gloves and a shovel, and dumped the body in the ocean because he was afraid to lose his job.

"He made a bad decision," Donald Wilkerson, defense attorney, said. "But his bad decision was not murder in the second degree. His bad decision was not manslaughter."

The victim's parents from Sado Island, Japan watch, as prosecutors describe Lankford as a manipulative, narcissistic man who stalked and murdered their shy daughter.

The defense argues there's no evidence Lankford killed anyone.

"They came together on one day for a very unfortunate accident," Wilkerson said. "And it resulted unfortunately and very sadly, and it's brought a tear to all of our eyes, but it resulted in her death."

The jury is set to begin its deliberations Friday morning.