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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 30, 2007

Sketches offer view of victim's artistic bent

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Masumi Watanabe's sketchbook shows a fondness for animals.

Watanabe family

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Kirk Lankford

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Masumi Watanabe

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The man accused in the death of missing Japanese visitor Masumi Watanabe is expected to make his initial appearance at 8:30 a.m. this morning in District Court, according to the city prosecutor's office.

Kirk Lankford, a 22-year-old Kalihi man, has been charged with second-degree murder in Watanabe's death, even though no body has been found.

Lankford remained behind bars over the weekend while family members helped to paint a more vivid picture of the 21-year-old Watanabe as a kind but introverted young woman who liked to sketch animals.

Her sketchbook shows a particular fondness for dogs, from beagles and basset hounds to collies. But she also drew fish, a lady bug and even a series of dinosaurs.

Watanabe was last seen on the morning of April 12 a Thursday off Pupukea Road near Alapi'o Road. She was wearing a navy blue hooded long-sleeve sweater, brown shirt, blue denim pants and pink shoes.

The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai'i, a volunteer organization that helps tourists in times of emergency, has been assisting Watanabe's parents, Hideichi and Fumiko Watanabe, who flew to the Islands from Japan after their daughter disappeared.

Society president and executive director Jessica Lani Rich released a statement from the parents over the weekend describing their "loved and precious daughter."

Masumi Watanabe had visited Hawai'i for the first time in September and then came back to stay with family friends. "She loved Hawai'i and her time here so much, that she returned again in February," they said.

"Although she didn't speak much English, she volunteered her time at the Sunset Beach Elementary School by helping out with the younger students and straightening the books in the library," they said.

Rich said the Watanabes have been here for more than a week waiting to learn more and praying for their daughter.

"They will remain week by week until they hear some kind of news about what happened to her," Rich said.

Looking through Watanabe's sketchbook gives more insight into the young woman behind the missing person's report. "It really touched my heart," Rich said. "It made her more of a person."

Lankford was working as a pest control technician on O'ahu's North Shore the day that Watanabe disappeared.

Friends and fellow church members have expressed shock that Lankford has been charged with the killing. They had described him as a friendly family man with a wife, a child and another on the way.

Sunday church services went on yesterday morning at The Potter's House that Lankford regularly attended on South King Street near Old Stadium Park. The Christian fellowship church is in a strip mall that also houses an Indian restaurant, a sushi restaurant and several other small businesses.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.