HONOLULU - A body found hanging from a Big Island tree this month is that of a man who confessed in a notebook to strangling his pregnant girlfriend, police said Tuesday.
"The active investigation into the strangulation death of 25-year-old Brittany-Jane Royal has concluded with a determination that she was murdered by her boyfriend, 22-year-old Boaz David Johnson," Hawaii County police said in a statement.
Johnson, of Petersburg, Alaska, had been missing since May 27, one day before Royal's body was found caught in a boat's fishing line in waters off the Kalapana coast. Police said he was a suspect, while his family told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald they believed he was also a victim of violence. Johnson's family couldn't immediately be reached Tuesday.
Police used dental records to help confirm the identity of Johnson's body, which was found Jan. 2 hanging from a tree in Kalapana. Near his body, police found a composition book in which Johnson confessed to strangling Royal in a domestic dispute and throwing her body into the ocean. The handwritten pages also included his suicide intentions, police said.
Royal, originally from Tustin, Calif., moved to the Puna area in the beginning of last year, where she met Johnson, her family said. The couple had visited her family and shared news that Royal was pregnant.
"It's very sad. It's not a shock, though," her brother, Schuyler Royal, 22, said Tuesday. "Of course we hate the fact that it was him. He ultimately killed her and their unborn son."
Her brother said he previously had some doubts that Johnson was responsible because of reports of an anonymous letter that said local tour guides were upset at the couple for stealing business from them.
"I thought it also could be locals who were mad at them for encroaching on their land," he said, describing how Johnson had been giving tours of the campsite where the couple were living. "But that's all speculation."
Royal's father traveled to the Big Island so that he could be there when police made their announcement Tuesday.
"All the questions we had, all the speculation, all the misinformation, everything has been cleared up," Ted Royal said, praising police and prosecutors for their work. "It's over."
Ted Royal said police showed him the pages from the notebook: "He details his feelings, he details what happened. He clearly admitted to strangling Brittany and throwing her in the ocean. He clearly wrote that down."
His daughter never indicated any violence in the short relationship, Ted Royal said.
"It's two kids that got into a heated argument and he made a bad decision," he said. "I'm not in the forgiving phase yet, but I know I'll have to forgive in order to move on and to heal."