Nanakuli Man Sentenced To Prison For Fatal Punch

Published On: Sep 10 2008 02:13:30 AM HST   Updated On: Sep 10 2008 02:32:31 AM HST

A judge sentenced a Nanakuli man to 20 years in prison on Wednesday because of a single punch that killed a young man headed to the University of Hawaii law school.

Chris Reuther drove to Zablan Beach Park straight from the airport, believing it was a safe place to camp and meet Native Hawaiians. He ended up dead after Les Schnabel punched him.

"That's all I can think about the midnight when Chris lay in a dreary parking lot, hemorrhaging from the base of his brain, dying alone thousands of miles away from everyone who knew and loved him," the victim's mother, Judy Wilson, said.

Reuther's mother said the grief over her son's death caused his sister's divorce and her breast cancer. She asked the judge to give Schnabel 20 years for the manslaughter conviction.

"I can go into my surgery knowing my son is finally at peace," Wilson said.

Schnabel's mother asked for mercy for her son.

"I am just asking the court for leniency. He is not a monster like everybody says," Theona Schnabel said.

"I would give anything to be able to undo it and give them back their son and brother," Schnabel said.

Schnabel's family said he has changed while on bail. He is now a loving father and uncle, employed and in church, they said.

He blamed his violence on his father.

"Growing up that way led me to believe, led me to believe I should want people to fear me like I feared my dad," Schnabel said.

Manslaughter cases are difficult for judges because they often must choose between two extremes -- probation with up to 18 months in prison or 20 years.

Judge Michael Town said that despite Schnabel's progress and his history, the crime required the 20-year sentence.

As his family sobbed, his victim's mother said perhaps at least Zablan Park is safer now.

"Chris wanted to make the world better and safer. That's a small park, but maybe still in his death he is doing good things," Wilson said.

The Hawaii Parole Board will decide how much of the 20 years Schnabel will serve.


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