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Police Say Boaz Johnson Killed Royal, Then Committed Suicide

January 21, 2014, 3:57 PM HST (Updated January 21, 2014, 3:59 PM)
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Boaz Johnson confessed to killing his pregnant girlfriend, Brittany-Jane Royal, before taking his own life last year, Big Island police said today.

A body found hanging in a forested area in Kalapana on Jan. 2 was confirmed to be that of Johnson, police said during a press conference today.

In a journal found nearby containing three handwritten pages, Johnson confessed to strangling Royal during a domestic dispute and throwing her body into the ocean, police said. He also wrote that he intended to commit suicide.

Assistant Chief Henry Tavares told reporters that handwriting analysis confirmed the writing was that of the 22-year-old Johnson, formerly of Alaska.

The identity of the decomposing body was confirmed to be Johnson’s through DNA analysis and dental records. The body was found approximately two miles upslope from the campsite where Johnson and Royal were staying.

Tavares said no reason was given in the journal for the cause of the domestic dispute that led to the death of Royal.

He said that it was believed that Johnson hung himself “a couple days” after Royal, 25, was killed. Tavares said it was not possible to pin down the date further because it was not known exactly when Royal died or when Johnson committed suicide.

Her nude body was found tangled in a fishing line off Kalapana on May 28. She had previously told her family in California that she was pregnant with Johnson’s child.

An autopsy indicated that she had been strangled with a rope. Police said today that Johnson used a similar rope to hang himself.

After Royal’s body was discovered, police initially said that Johnson was missing.

Shortly thereafter, police declared Johnson a prime suspect in the case.

Tavares said that Johnson was indicted for second-degree murder during a grand jury proceeding on Dec. 18. A judge then issued an arrest warrant for Johnson and also sealed the indictment. The latter was done at the request of police and prosecutors to allow authorities to locate Johnson and make an arrest.

Tavares today said that police learned that Johnson had phoned a friend the day after Royal’s body was found and told him that he and Royal were well and on their way to Hilo. He said that conversation, as well as DNA and other evidence found at the campsite where the two were living, made Johnson a suspect.

Ted Royal, father of Brittany-Jane Royal. Photo by Dave Smith.

Ted Royal, father of Brittany-Jane Royal. Photo by Dave Smith.

Also attending today’s press conference were Royal’s father, Ted Royal of Tustin, Calif., and her maternal grandfather, Jerry Spahn of Carlsbad, Calif.

“I’ve been looking forward to this day for 7½ months,” Royal said.

Royal said he traveled back to Hawaii to give a “heartfelt thanks” to Big Island police and prosecutors for their efforts to solve the case, and to the people of Hawaii for their support of his family during the ordeal.

Jerry Spahn, maternal grandfather of Brittany-Jane Royal. Photo by Dave Smith.

Jerry Spahn, maternal grandfather of Brittany-Jane Royal. Photo by Dave Smith.

“One evil act will never overcome the aloha spirit that Brittany so very much loved,” he said.

Spahn read a letter from his daughter Julie, Brittany-Jane’s mother, also expressing gratitude for support from her sons and others.

“Who knew that a 25-year-old free-spirited hippie could touch so many lives,” the letter said.

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