Police: Body in Kalapana is murder suspect

Published On: Jan 21 2014 01:38:58 PM HST
Updated On: Jan 21 2014 07:06:17 PM HST

Some major revelations today in a disturbing murder case on the Big Island. KITV4's Kenny Choi has an update on this investigation.

HILO, Hawaii -

Hawaii County Police say the body found in a kipuka in Kalapana is that of missing murder suspect 22-year-old Boaz Johnson.

Click here to watch Kenny Choi's story.

A kipuka is a wooded area within a lava field.  The body was found hanging on an ironwood tree not far from the entrance of the kipuka.

Police believe Johnson committed suicide after murdering his girlfriend 25-year-old Brittany Royal.

At a press conference on the Big Island on Tuesday, authorities said they found a composition book near Johnson's body.  In three handwritten pages, the writer -- who identified himself as Johnson -- confessed to strangling Royal while involved in a domestic dispute and to throwing her body into the ocean.  He also indicated his intention to end his life.

A private forensic laboratory confirmed the identity by comparing DNA from the body with a known sample of Johnson's DNA. Johnson’s identity was also confirmed using dental records. 

A forensic document examiner determined that the writing in the composition book came from Johnson. 

The medical examiner has ruled out foul play in Johnson's death.

Royal's body was found entangled in fishing lines in waters offshore of Kalapana on May 28.

Julie Spahn-Royal, Brittany's mother, told KITV on Tuesday, "I'm relieved at this point just to have some answers."

Brittany's father, Ted Royal, attended the press conference wearing a lei.

"The loss of Brittany is something we're learning to live with," said Royal.

"When you raise a child you never imagine your grand-daughter can precede you leaving this world," said Jerry Spahn, Royal's grand-father. 

In July, police named Johnson as their primary suspect.

On Jan. 2, a man looking to purchase land in the Kalapana area discovered the partially decomposed remains in a wooded area in the kipuka.

It was not far from the campsite where Brittany Royal and Boaz Johnson had lived.

At what was believed to be Bo and Brittany's campsite, search warrants say, "...(officers) observed what appeared to be human hair and human tissue along the lava field leading in the makai direction."

About an hour later, officers "...were walking on a possible trail leading to a forested kipuka area in the makai direction when they observed a black colored backpack with a cell phone next to it and a knife with an approximately 5 inch blade next to the cell phone."

The search warrants go on to say, "...(one officer) observed what he believed to be an Alaska State identification with the name Boaz Johnson."

An autopsy confirmed the pregnant Royal had been strangled.  What appeared to be rope marks around her neck matched the rope found at a campsite nearby.

The case is still officially open because detectives have minor follow-ups to conduct before the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney conducts a final review.

We will have more on this story tonight on KITV4 News at 5, 6 and 10.

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PHOTOS: Big Island murder victim identified

Click here to see pictures of Brittany-Jane Royal.

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