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Man gets life sentence in murder

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KAILUA-KONA » A Hawaii island man assumed the role of "judge, jury and executioner" in a 2013 slaying, a judge said Monday in handing him a life sentence for second-degree murder.

Third Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Strance sentenced Martin Frank Booth, 56, in the shooting and battering death of musician Robert Keawe Lopaka Ryder, 37. The crime was in retaliation for an assault Booth believed Ryder had committed.

Strance called Ryder’s killing ruthless.

"He was a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, and he positively touched the lives of countless others," she said. "By your account you assumed the role of judge, jury and executioner for a crime that Mr. Ryder did not admit to have committed or for which he had been found guilty by a jury of his peers."

The life sentence carries a possibility of parole, West Hawaii Today reported. The Hawaii Paroling Authority will determine when he is eligible.

Ryder’s family reported him missing Jan. 17. His body was found in March in a lava field in South Kohala.

Police in an affidavit said a 28-year-old woman living with her boyfriend in a trailer on Booth’s property told her boyfriend that Ryder had assaulted her. The woman’s boyfriend passed the information to Booth.

According to police, sometime between Nov. 30 and Dec. 17, 2013, Booth met Ryder in Booth’s garage, hit him with a hammer when Ryder tried to hit him with his ukulele, and shot him twice. Booth and another man took the body to the lava field, and a third man cleaned the garage, according to police. The other two men served as witnesses and were not charged.

Booth told the woman afterward that he had shot and killed Ryder for "what he had done to her," police said.

Booth apologized at the sentencing.

"Lopaka was a very talented and loving person. He was a friend of mine. I’m sorry," he said. "There’s nothing I can do to change that and what I’ve done, and for that I am sorry and there is no excuse."

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