Online comments cite violent threats from lava tour operators

Published On: Jun 11 2013 06:59:39 PM HST   Updated On: Jun 12 2013 06:30:25 AM HST

"She was free spirited. She was kind. She had a beautiful heart and a gorgeous smile," said Brittany Royal's mother Julie Spahn Royal.

It's hard to forget the heartbreaking emotions from Brittany Royal's family.

Their 25-year-old daughter was found dead by fisherman in the waters off Kalapana on the Big Island.

The medical examiner concluded she was strangled.

"I went back to work and I made it about 4 1/2 hours, then I came home and just took a nap, because I'm just overwhelmed with everything," she said on Tuesday.

Brittany's family has since brought her ashes home to California and is planning a memorial service sometime soon.

"It's hard. Just the emotions come pouring out. It's just the unknowns more than anything," said Matt Hale, a close family friend of Boaz Johnson.

But the search for what happened to her missing boyfriend Boaz Johnson has intensified.

His family arrived in Kalapana last week and is searching for answers under close watch.

"There were four vehicles that were following us around," said Hale.

PHOTOS: Big Island murder victim identified

Click here to see pictures of Brittany Royal.

Only weeks before she was killed, Brittany and Boaz flew back to California to let her parents know she was pregnant.

A real estate agent told KITV when they returned, the two were about to close the deal on 10 acres of land in the lava fields in Kalapana, but didn't show up for their appointment.

Blogs and online comments have been building in recent days, talking about violent run-ins with certain lava tour operators in the area, which is a field Bo had talked about pursuing.

"Did he ever mention anything about being threatened?" asked KITV reporter Lara Yamada.

"Yeah, but that was the way he was. He didn't want me to worry about it," said Hale, who is on the Big Island helping Bo's family.

KITV also spoke with real estate agents in the area who said their clients were threatened too -- one so fearful he even backed out of a deal.

It is yet another hard story, for families in search of the truth for the sake of their loved ones.

"I got to know Brittany. She was a wonderful lady. I got to see how happy he was and how excited he was about the future," said Hale.

Bo's family said he loved growing things, and was considering temporary work as a tour guide, until he could get his farm up and running.

They said they've been working with residents in the area to try and find out more about what might have happened.

Big Island police would only say detectives are pursuing new leads.


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