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Clues in woman’s death may come from Hawaii island campsite


Evidence found at the Kalapana campsite of a slain 25-year-old woman, who recently moved to Kalapana, and her missing 22-year-old boyfriend, Boaz Johnson, may provide details on how she was killed.

Police filed documents in court revealing that a bundled nylon rope was found inside the couple’s tent, and that the rope’s width was consistent with marks on the woman’s neck, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

Brittany-Jane Royal, whose body was found May 28 in waters off Kalapana, did have marks on her neck, police Lt. Greg Esteban of the Criminal Investigations Section, said today. The medical examiner ruled Royal’s death a homicide and that she died of strangulation.

Esteban would not discuss what was recovered at the couple’s Kalapana lava field campsite but did say police executed search warrants at three locations, one of which was the campsite.

The autopsy results also showed injuries to her head and body “were consistent with direct contact with a jagged surface and may have caused drag marks,” he said.

Hawaii County Police are awaiting the results of analysis tests being performed at a mainland forensic laboratory on the evidence collected from the campsite, since the department has no forensic lab.

The Tribune-Herald quotes the police documents as saying two clotheslines were found at the campsite. One had been cut with nothing attached to it, while the other had several items of clothing hanging from it with “possible trace blood evidence on these items.”

The documents also say an officer found what appeared to be human hair along a recent lava flow, along with “what appeared to be drag marks and disturbance to the ground leading in the makai direction.”

Police also recovered a black backpack with Johnson’s Alaska identification inside and a cellphone and a 5-inch bladed knife next to it, the documents said.

Royal recently moved to Kalapana from Tustin, Calif., and Johnson, a Petersburg, Alaska, native had recently moved to Hawaii.

Johnson is considered a missing person, but has not been ruled out as a suspect, Esteban said.

Police are also poring over documents, which were subpoenaed, Esteban said. “We’re hoping we’re going to find information we’re looking for,” he said.

Johnson’s family contends he may also have been the victim of violence, and reported that a lava tour operator had threatened him if he persisted in giving tours after Johnson had taken his family out to see lava flows.

Esteban said they had investigated the allegations, and ruled out the tour operator as a suspect.

His mother earlier told the Tribune-Herald that police photos of the campsite did not look like a crime scene, and that there were no signs of a struggle in the tent.

Police have been unable to find Johnson, and one possible sighting proved to be a red herring.

A Pahoa hostel property manager identified Johnson from a photo lineup as a person who resembled someone who had rented a room and abandoned property there.

Detectives tried to verify the information, and excluded Johnson as that person.

Anyone with information concerning this case is asked to call Detective Robert Almeida at 961-2386 or Detective Fetuutuunai Amuimuia at 961-2278. Anonymous calls may be made to CrimeStoppers at 961-8300 or 329-8181.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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