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.
On December 18, a Grand Jury indicted Johnson for second-degree murder. At that time, a Circuit Court judge issued a warrant for Johnson’s arrest and sealed the indictment—at the request of police and prosecutors—to give state and federal law enforcement agencies the opportunity to locate and arrest Johnson. That indictment has now been unsealed.
Meanwhile, a body found hanging from a tree in Kalapana on January 2 has been identified as Boaz David Johnson. 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 composition book was found near Johnson’s body. In three handwritten pages, the writer—who identified himself as Boaz 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 forensic document examiner determined that the writing in the composition book came from Boaz Johnson.
An autopsy on Johnson’s body revealed that the cause of death was asphyxia due to hanging and the manner of death was suicide. The medical examiner ruled out foul play.
This investigation began on May 28, 2013, at approximately 6:30 a.m., when police and firefighters responded to a report of a body caught in a fishing line in waters off Kalapana. The body was identified through fingerprints as Brittany-Jane Royal, who had recently moved to Hawaiʻi from Tustin, California, and was living in the Kalapana area with Boaz Johnson, who had recently moved to Hawaiʻi from Petersburg, Alaska.
Investigation revealed that after Royal’s body was found, Johnson said in a telephone conversation with a friend that he and Royal were in good health and were on their way to Hilo. That phone call, in addition to DNA and other evidence found at the crime scene, made Johnson an early suspect in Royal’s murder.
Throughout the investigation, police followed all leads in this case, including investigation that was able to exclude other individuals as being responsible for Royal’s death.
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.