25-year-old woman moved to Hawaii to find sun, place to settle down
"As a mother it's the hardest thing to imagine, losing a child and especially in a way like this," said a devastated Julie Spahn Royal.
She, Brittany's father and brother are on the Big Island to recover her body and try to find answers in the mysterious murder case.
"She was free spirited. She was kind. She had a beautiful heart and a gorgeous smile," she said from their hotel in Hilo.
After living in Saint Thomas for a year, her family says Royal moved to Hawaii to bask in the sun, teach yoga and build a life on the lava fields.
"She loved the nature and the land and she actually thought that she could form roots here and call it a home," said Spahn Royal.
Tuesday morning, fisherman found her body tangled in their lines near where the lava enters the ocean in Kalapana in lower Puna.
An autopsy determined Brittany was strangled.
"If you asked if I ever dreamed this would happen, I would have said not even in my worst nightmare," said her grandfather Jerry Spahn, from Carlsbad, Calif.
22-year-old Boaz Johnson, Brittany's boyfriend, is still missing.
"I thought he was nice," said Brittany's grandmother Jane Spahn.
She said she met the Alaska native for the first time two weeks ago at their California home.
"That's the last time I saw her. I cherish the hugs we had together," she said.
Her grandmother said the two were a couple for about six months and had plans to build a dome house on the lava fields.
They were supposed to sign papers with a realtor on Monday, but never showed up for their appointment.
"I just hope they find him and find him fast," said her grandmother.
It is but one more question for a family finding no peace in paradise.
"When you've got this much heartache going on, having this much help, and support really means a lot," said Brittany's father Ted.
"The only reason I'm here is to bring my daughter back home, that's the only reason I'm here. I don't care about anything else," said her mom.
Police want to question Johnson, but they have not named a suspect or person of interest.
As for Brittany, her family said she was a beautiful person inside and out, incredibly artistic, smart and determined.
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