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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Still no trace of missing Japanese woman

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Masumi Watanabe

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Kirk Lankford

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The search for a missing 21-year-old woman from Japan is now focusing on the area between Kahana Bay and the Pali, police said.

The search began in Pupukea after Masumi Watanabe was last seen April 12 and continued there several times over the past two weeks, and has included Waiahole Valley up to the Pali.

Police believe Watanabe was killed and last week charged a Kalihi man with murder.

Police believe if Watanabe's body had been thrown into the water, it would have surfaced at some point, and they have not ruled out the possibility it could have been in a bag that was tossed into a Dumpster.

The search yesterday was at a location closer to the Pali, but searchers found no trace of Watanabe, who was last seen at 9:20 a.m. walking on Pupukea Road near Alapi'o Road. The effort involved the police Specialized Services Division, state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Honolulu Fire Department personnel.

Kirk Lankford, 22, has been charged with second-degree murder based on forensic evidence recovered from the Hauoli Termite and Pest Control truck he was driving the day of the disappearance. Prosecutors are expected to seek a grand jury indictment today that would supercede a preliminary hearing scheduled in the afternoon.

Lankford is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

Police will resume the search today.

The search is based on a three-hour timeline from the night of April 12. According to a police report filed at District Court for the warrantless arrest of Lankford, he and his wife attended Potter's House Church that evening.

Corinne Lankford told homicide detectives Kenneth Higa and Sheryl Sunia that her husband left their Hani Lane home in Kalihi near Farrington High School after church to do a side job in Waipahu.

Corinne Lankford initially told the detectives that her husband returned home wearing dirty socks at a time she did not recall, according to the affidavit. But in a later interview, she said the time of her husband's return was 1 a.m. and that his socks were not dirty.

At midnight, a witness called police to report a man with a flashlight digging a hole at a Kahana location where the body of a homicide victim, 56-year-old Linda Hannon, was found Feb. 25. The witness Hannon's boyfriend identified Lankford as the man who was digging in an isolated area near the fishpond by Crouching Lion restaurant.

Police later seized Lankford's Ford Ranger pickup truck, based on a license-plate number submitted by the witness, and recovered a shovel.

Police confirmed finding a hole at the Kahana scene but no body.

Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.