HONOLULU – Overcoming cultural differences, a Japanese couple has made their first public appeal for help in finding the body of their 21-year-old daughter, who is believed to have been murdered in April.
Masumi Watanabe disappeared April 12 while walking in Pupukea, where she was staying with a host family.
In Japan, parents in such a situation "do not make any kind of public appearance," said Bob Iinuma, who has befriended Hideichi Watanabe and his wife, Fumiko.
"The public needs to see them, to feel their hurt and feel their loss," Iinuma said. The Watanabes "feel closer to Masumi when they are in Hawaii," he said.
A witness has said she saw Masumi Watanabe get into a pest control truck allegedly driven by Kirk Lankford, 22, of Kalihi. She was never seen again. Her blood and glasses were found inside the truck.
Despite the lack of a body, Lankford has been charged with murder and kidnapping. He has pleaded not guilty. The Watanabes said they planned to attend Lankford's trial, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 20.
Hideichi Watanabe said Tuesday that he and his wife have made a number of trips to Hawaii in hopes of finding their daughter's body. Each time they stop and leave flowers where she was last seen.
"We are sure Masumi is on Oahu," he said.
"It is important to find the body" so she can be returned home to Japan, Fumiko Watanabe said.
"We really want to have Masumi back as soon as possible. We really look for the information to take her body back to Japan," Hideichi Watanabe said.