Hawaii News — Police: Boaz Johnson Killed Brittany Jane Royal Before Killing Himself

imageBy Tiffany Edwards Hunt

Hawaii Island police have concluded the Brittany Jane Royal murder case, having determined with certainty that it was a murder-suicide.

Boaz Johnson killed his 25 year old pregnant girlfriend on or around Memorial Day last year before killing himself, according to police.

At a Jan. 21 press conference, Assistant Police Chief Henry Tavares told the media that, on Dec. 18, evidence was presented to a grand jury and an indictment for second degree murder was issued for Johnson. Although a warrant for Johnson’s arrest was issued, the indictment was sealed until Jan. 21.

On Jan. 2, a body was discovered hanging in Kalapana and, according to Tavares, DNA and dental records identified the body as 22-year-old Johnson’s.

A composition notebook found near the body contains three handwritten pages signed by Boaz confessing to the strangling of Brittany.

Police said they sent the three pages to a forensic document examiner in order to confirm it was indeed Johnson’s writing.

Police confirmed through an autopsy that Johnson died from asphyxia due to hanging. No foul play is suspected.

On May 28, the day Brittany’s body was found floating in the ocean, Johnson answered his cell phone and told a friend, revealed in court documents to be Edward Elarth, that he and Brittany were in good health and on their way to Hilo. He also had some other phone activity after May 28, but police would not elaborate at the Jan. 21 press conference.

Throughout the investigation, police followed up on leads and excluded other individuals suspected of the crime, Tavares noted.

The case is still officially open with minor follow-ups necessary, he said.

Police spoke with the Royals and with the Johnson family and shared details of the case, prior to holding the Jan. 21 press conference.

The composition notebook writing indicates Boaz Johnson hung himself within a couple of days of killing Brittany and the fetus.

The rope that was used for her strangling and the rope used to hang himself were similar, Tavares said. The body was found hanging in a kipuka, or forested area, two miles mauka, or up the mountain, from the campsite.

A bottle of liquor was found at the campsite, police confirmed. Johnson, on the couple’s trip to meet familyin Alaska and California earlier in May, told one of Brittany’s family members that he steered clear of hard alcohol.

Tavares said Johnson indicated in his writing that he and Brittany were involved in a domestic dispute.

The contents of the composition notebook will be released when the investigation is closed, which is expected within a few months, that is, unless family members raise privacy issues.

Asked if Johnson expressed remorse for the crime in his writing, Tavares said, “He was very specific in what he did and his intent to end his life; he did not express remorse.”

Lt. Greg Esteban said the crime scene itself appeared “neat” and “there did not appear to be any signs of struggle.” Drag marks and skin tissue determined to be Brittany’s were found at the north end of the campsite. The tissue trail led to the ocean, Esteban said.

Since the release of search warrant documents many months ago, people interested in the case were not clear as to wether or not two different tents searched, as the documents indicated. Esteban confirmed at the Jan. 21 press conference that there were two campsites processed and referred to in the search warrant documents. However, the first scene was north of the campsite and the scene and contents were excluded, Esteban said.

“We did locate the camp site where the couple stayed.”

The first tent involved another individual, presumably not connected to the case, Esteban said.

Police say there was no indication Johnson left Kalapana before committing suicide.

A couple of members of Brittany’s family were present for the Jan. 21 press conference. Brittany’s father,Ted Royal, said he was looking forward to this day for the last eight months. He expressed gratitude to the community for all the love and support. He thanked the media for being so considerate and Big Island Chronicle for keeping the story alive. He thanked the police and the prosecuting attorney’s office for their tireless efforts to solve the case. He gave nods to lead detective Robert Almeida, to prosecutor Mitch Roth, and to the victim-witness counselor that has been working closely with the family since the crime occurred.

Jerry Spahn, Brittany’s maternal grandfather, noted how you never imagine your grand daughter preceding you. He read a statement from Julie Royal, his daughter and Brittany’s mother.  Julie Royal noted how the eight months have been “the most difficult, losing Brittany and I’o,” which is the name given to Brittany’s fetus. She stated that the loss of her daughter and would-be grandchild have been life-changing. She noted her sons have been her rock. Julie Royal wanted to personally thank everyone near and far who have been committed to finding out the truth about what happened. “A 25-year-old free-spirited hippie girls touched so many lives,” she said.

Julie Royal also expressed gratitude to the police department, noting there was so much the family and the community were not privy to, which went on behind the scenes. “Brittany’s life was about peace and love,” Julie Royal said. “She was always searching for a place to find a home and raise a child.”

Tiffany Edwards Hunt is the editor and publisher of Big Island Chronicle.

Tiffany Edwards Hunt is the editor and publisher of Big Island Chronicle.

25 replies
  1. Handyman
    Handyman says:

    Aloha to the Royal and Johnson Families,

    May both families finally find peace and a sense of closure. I’m sure Brittany would want both families to continue on through life with no animosity for her tragic end. I read that she lead a life of “Peace and Love”, then perhaps that’s what she would want for both families?

    I’m sure that they’ve already re-met in the next life,…and she forgave him.


  2. Damon
    Damon says:

    To the Royals,

    I wish you the best and I know this has been hard.

    To the Johnson’s… I understand you wanting to defend your family member… Thanks for being mad at me.

    To all the anonymous throwing folks under the bus… karma is a bitch!

  3. punated
    punated says:

    The local police did their job professionally and completely. The area is hard to search, so it was fortunate somebody in the community found his body.

    The online detective work was awful, and stupid. All these people demanding the police provide every minute detail was ridiculous. The reason the police keep details confidential is because there may be clues that the killer would recognize to their advantage.

    There was a huge online armchair quarterback detectives for the Boston bombers and it was just as awful and misguided. There was actually some people hurt because they were “recognized” online. There was one photo with many people saying it was the bomber, because he was all blown up. The reason he was blown up was he was a victim near the center of the blast.

  4. BigIslandLove
    BigIslandLove says:

    I thought the online investigative work opened up questions that have yet to be answered by police. Most people in this area are not under the impression he committed suicide.

    Remember the Vargas case? The Gambsky case? Dana Ireland?

    It takes years in Puna to make HPD do real police work…

  5. Tiffany Edwards Hunt
    Tiffany Edwards Hunt says:

    You do a real disservice to the family of Brittany Jane Royal and Boaz Johnson by continuing to question the outcome of the case. After being presented with the facts of the case, I am certain that this is a murder-suicide. I stand against victimizing the victims of any case, and continuing to shed doubt is a form of victimization. The family needs closure to begin the healing process.
    Someday we the public will know everything that was written in the three-page letter left near the body of Boaz Johnson. When you know all that was written you will have a better understanding of what happened and you can be rest assured that police and prosecutors have it right.
    Please respect the families involved.

  6. BigIslandLove
    BigIslandLove says:

    How is anyone in the local community doing a disservice to the Johnson family by voicing their thoughts about the possibility that Boaz Johnson was murdered?

    How long have you been in Puna? As a journalist, shouldn’t you be well aware of faulty investigative work in the past? There are NUMEROUS cases in which so-called suicides ruled by the police were found later to be homicide.As a reader of your newspaper, and an active local citizen, I am simply suggesting that this is possibly another unsolved crime.

    You think the Johnson family is going to start a “healing process” while they stand firm behind the belief that he is innocent, and possibly framed? I’ve actually talked with the family members myself, quite recently, and I assure you, this is no “healing process” for the Johnson family, and everything I write is in the UTMOST respect for both families.

  7. Melissa Fletcher
    Melissa Fletcher says:

    Until the public knows what the reporters, police, and family know, there will continue to be doubts. Natural, expected doubts and a continuation of questions. There should be no outrage about the questioning until the facts are available so that people in this community can put their minds at ease. Please consider, all in this community who are aware of the ongoing story have been victimized as well! Dragged into yet another murder filled with questions and not a lot of answers – until perhaps now.

    The past DOES play a part in people’s doubts; mis-handled cases in the past are of course going to cast a shadow of doubt on present cases. What has changed? If it is as Tiffany, the family, and the police seem to believe without a doubt, then the rest of the community with practical sense should come to the same conclusion once the facts are given. Let’s give it time, respect the families, but also give the public a chance to receive the facts. Reporters and police aren’t the only ones with a right to question, and shaming a person who questions should not be tolerated. It is the very foundation of good journalism, and good community for that matter.

  8. Andy Parx
    Andy Parx says:

    HiPD needs a professional spokesperson/media specialist. The way they handled this was disgraceful and abusive of the community. I’ve never seen something like that- you don’t identify a specific alleged killer who is on the loose and then refuse to give any more information whatsoever or answer any questions. You either say you’ve got a suspect without naming him/her or if you name the person give some indication of why you think it’s the person, even if it’s not very informative using the old “don’t want to jeopardize the investigation blah blah” saw. Otherwise you make your department look incompetent and destroy your own credibility with the community or make it look like you’re covering something up. What if they hadn’t found the body/suicide note? It makes it look like they had discovered it long ago and covered it up until someone stumbled on it and they had to release the info that had.
    Shesh- It’s like Casey Stengel said about the ’62 Mets- can’t anyone her play this game?

  9. Handyman
    Handyman says:

    Aloha BigIslandLove,

    Your words are disgusting to say the least. You do your name (BigIslandLove) an injustice, please change it.

    Tiffany is reporting the facts of the case that was made public. You are peeling back the scab of a fresh wound and rubbing rock salt on it. For what possible reason? To amuse yourself?

    I find your words heartless and in no way an example of “BigIslandLove”. Shame on you! People like yourself, make the rest of us look like idiots. Please go back to that hole you climbed out of. You have yet to learn compassion. It’s not just a word.

    Aloha. }:-(

  10. justwondering
    justwondering says:

    I am wondering if there was a composition tablet with a 3 page note by Boaz how did it not get weather damaged over the 7 month period it was out there? Was there a campsite or did he have the forethought to put it in a plastic baggy? How did he get supplies since he was wanted and obviously went in hiding after the murder. This piece of the puzzle doesn’t fit for me.

  11. Kit
    Kit says:

    First, my apologies for thinking I’d figured out the case. Secondly, it’s with redoubled sadness that I again extend condolences to both families of their lost loved ones. The police undoubtedly did their job here. No good ending.

  12. LJP2014
    LJP2014 says:

    Dec 12- People magazine (royal family not so sure bo did it)
    Dec 15 GMA (royal family not so sure bo did it)
    Dec 16 Fox news (royal family not so sure bo did it)
    Dec 18 a sealed indictment of 2nd degree murder of bo johnson. sealed because hawaii police believe it would hinder their investigation.
    Jan 2 body found
    jan 21 with Royal family members standing by hawaii police say they found there murderer

    coincedence, luck, conspiracy that would go way deeper than anybody can imagine………….. we may never know

  13. RealityChik
    RealityChik says:

    To the Royal and Johnson families, my condolences for your loss. Were I in your shoes, I’m not so sure I could ever match the grace and strength you’ve shown us throughout this tragedy. You are an inspiration to us all.

    I have followed this sad event from the beginning and altho I still have reservations about the outcome, Tiffany’s concise, fact-based summary of the concluding press conference convinced me that it is time to accept the murder/suicide findings, at least until more facts become available that prove otherwise.

    Yes, the possibility of a coerced confession is plausible, but at this moment, I think it’s more important to give the families some quiet time to grieve, without the noise of uninformed musings by self-indulgent speculators, constantly interrupting their well-deserved pursuit of closure.

    It’s not the impassioned opining in these discussions that trouble me. Rather, it’s all the reckless conjecture from people who don’t even take time to review the facts of the investigation before making half-baked and often incriminating attacks on the police, BI locals, the press, supporters, family members and even the victims of this horrendous event!

    C’mon, folks! This is not a fictional crime novel here. It’s a real life tragedy. What the families need from us now is thoughtful support, and some quiet time without the noise of pointless rants, so they can begin the healing process. We owe it to them to temper our discussions with informed and respectful comments. And if so inclined, indulge the detective fantasies and personal accusations offline and out of public view. It’s the right thing to do.

    Rest in peace, Brit and Bo…

  14. Melissa Fletcher
    Melissa Fletcher says:

    It’s a valid question, justwondering. There are a lot of valid questions, and lots of people are asking them. Many of us in the community are pondering the same points as one another, things that seem to be some big holes needing filled before we can be at peace with the outcome. But I think all of that will come out with time. There must still be legal and/or political reasons for not releasing a more complete summary at this time.

  15. BigIslandLove
    BigIslandLove says:

    Many of us weren’t at peace after police ruled Dawn Gambsky died of suicide, which was not that long. I remember people in the community telling doubters to shut up and stop making conspiracy theories about the husband. I remember people saying “oh sheesh give it up already, nothing is going to bring the woman back, blah blah blah”…

    Remember how wrong those people were? I could easily sit here and list half a dozen similar cases that HPD completely screwed up, and that’s just the cases I can think of off the top of my head without even googling. Pathetic.

    You would think a local journalist would keep an open mind when it comes to public opinion, especially about a case that impacts the community as much as this one has.

  16. greg owen
    greg owen says:

    Buddha says there is good and evil in ALL of us….this explains it all for me….for all the delusional doubters please note that Brittany’s father and grandfather greatly appreciate the polce work done….and are satisfied with their conclusions….Brittany’s mom says the Johnson family “are in a different kind of pain” so it seems she too accepts that BO is the murderer….this young man has caused immense sadness and misery,not only for 2 families,but also for the community at large….unfortunately the majority of young women that are killed (I believe it is over 90 percent) are done in by either boyfriends or husbands….Tifanny,who I regard as a very smart woman,says that all those doubters are doing a disservice to both families….and i could not agree more.This so called coverup would have to include all the members of that outstanding hawaiian family that basically presides over Kalapana, and would also include Mitch Roth,the prosecutor,the Hawaii County Police dept. the grand jury and the FBI…..All of these individuals and entitities would have to sign on to this beyond evil far fetched and destructive line of thinking that these lolos are promoting….let it go or you are letting the lone brutal and beyond vicious murderer commit even more damage to OUR community

  17. Buddah Belly
    Buddah Belly says:

    Perhaps the murderer(s) made him write the “confession” to stop further investigation… I believe there are instances of “coerced” confessions… Just doesn’t seem right to me…

  18. Briitts MOM
    Briitts MOM says:

    I would like to personally thank all who have supported us during the past 8 months. Nothing can compare to losing a child and grandson, but your love has carried us through this. Knowing that people who don’t even know us or Brittany and CARED is amazing. We have justice and I am grateful for that. Grateful that this is over and we can start to heal.

    Brittany’s tattoo was Veritas (Latin for Truth), we have now found the truth. Aequitas (Latin for Justice) have been served. Ultimate Justice. I am confident about how the HPD has handled this case. Much has been said about it, I even had my doubts. But now knowing all the evidence that has been shared with us, the family, I can say that they did their job to our satisfaction. Early on I was told by many who has been through the justice system that they will not or can not tell us what they know, what they have etc. It was painful to wait and wonder and speculate. But after our briefing on Tuesday morning I can honestly say that I am confident about the events that took place. That Bo killed her and then took his own life.

    It’s very sad that 3 lives were taken at the hand of one person, Bo. Not only are 3 lives taken from this world but many lives are affected with his heinous act of violence. I have said before that it is time for us to heal, to move forward. Life will go on, life will just be different; somewhat less than complete. Many of you didn’t know this, but Brittany’s baby is a boy. When she visited in May to tell us the news she told me if it was a boy she was going to name him Io, which is a majestic Hawaiian hawk. Brittany and Io are in the ultimate paradise, Heaven. I know they are with us and guiding us. Brittany would not want us to have hate in our hearts. I don’t know if forgiveness is with me now, but acceptance is.

    RIP Brittany and Io

  19. Trula
    Trula says:

    I agree with several folks who have posted here–many aspects of this case appear not to support the police and
    coroner’s ruling of suicide. Thankfully there are
    concerned people in the community willing to question and search further for more information surrounding the circumstances of Boaz Johnson’s death. Having a supportive forum where people can share their feelings and thoughts, regardless of one’s opinion, is important. Without an open and free space to communicate, the truth (whatever it is), remains censored and dogmatic.

  20. Handyman
    Handyman says:

    Aloha Mr.Greg Owens,

    Hear! Hear!………very well stated!

    It seems Buddah Belly couldn’t resist to chime in too. There’s more lolo’s out there too.


  21. big island kanaka
    big island kanaka says:

    sorry, I too still have many doubts about the police findings. if you read the now unsealed warrant info. it appears everything they based that warrant request on was wrong. they have “him” on security/video at the airport? but when specifically asked if he left kalapana assist. chief Tavares says no, he did not leave kalapana. um, ok, which is it? his father brought a large boat to hawaii? he did? where is it? the BIG piece of evidence that kalapana ed talked to him after the murder? absolutely NO way to prove that. they just believed kalapana Ed. where is he btw? seems to have vanished. it was a joke the questions that were kinda, sorta asked at that press conference an absolute JOKE.. until much more actual evidence is presented a VERY large number of people on this island will have their doubts.. been through decades of watching this type of police work here. it’s so incompetent most times it’s beyond belief.. so most people just choose to believe it.. of course the murder victims family is satisfied they want it over, but there is another family who it seems has been given little to no info and compassion.

  22. Kathleen Johnson
    Kathleen Johnson says:

    I am Boaz’s mom. I had the letter read over the phone to me by the HPD. As far as any other test results, DNA, phone records, testimony, photographs, or physical evidence, I have not seen any. How long can this lack of communication go on? How can we talk of closure for my family? We are in the same place as 8 months ago; no knowledge.

  23. Paul Bratton
    Paul Bratton says:

    It is unconscionable that the HPD has shared so little with Boaz’s grieving family. Given that the police had an entirely different theory of the case two weeks before the body was found, it is hard to place great faith in their new explanation without open and public disclosure of the evidence.

    With so much threatening and bullying by lava tour operators and criminal activity (including extortion of a couple’s family that had apparently been camping with Boaz & Brittany immediately before theirs deaths), many find it hard to accept the police determination that the deaths had nothing to do with an attempted robbery (of land purchase funds) and was entirely a case of deadly domestic violence.

  24. Sav.L
    Sav.L says:

    Ya I do not, and will not ever believe that, it was a perfect cover up, in my eyes. This has been done all wrong. And no explanation at all! To the Johnson family. I’m still holding out hope, that one day the Johnson’s will get the closure they deserve. And i will continue to have faith. That somebody sees what we have seen this whole time. There has to be a reason the case isn’t closed. And as long as it isn’t closed this isn’t over. Bo I love and miss you everyday! Your always in my heart <3

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