Big Island police are now calling 22-year-old Boaz Johnson the suspect in the death of his girlfriend Brittany Johnson and revealing new details about the case, while his family maintains his innocence.
Lt. Gregory Esteban, head of Hilo's criminal investigation unit, told KITV on Wednesday investigators have validated information received early in this case, which then led them to deem Johnson as the primary suspect in her murder.
Reporter Lara Yamada spoke with both families involved on Wednesday.
Johnson's sister said the last time they spoke, Bo had asked his mom how to make a pregnant Brittany more comfortable, and was looking forward to closing the deal on 10 acres of land on the lava fields in Kalapana.
Then, he said these final words before he disappeared:
"My dad told him, 'You take care of yourself now and I love you.' My dad said he just felt the need to say it, and Bo told him he loved him back, and that's the last we heard from him," said Sarah Johnson, Bo's sister.
The family spoke with Bo for the last time the day before Brittany Royal's body was found by fisherman off the Kalapana coast on the Big Island on May 28.
A medical examiner quickly determined she was strangled.
On Wednesday, to the shock and dismay of the families involved, police officially named Johnson as their primary suspect.
"Am I happy that he's a suspect? Absolutely not. I'm glad that it's at least moving forward toward something. Instead of, we just don't know," said Julie Spahn Royal, Brittany's mother.
"They were becoming a family, that's why my mind is blown, said Sarah Johnson.
Police said samples of human hair and tissue found in close proximity to Bo and Brittany's tent, not far from where her body was found, are being tested at a mainland lab -- along with fibers found around her neck.
But investigators said on Wednesday, Johnson was not the man seen staying at a Pahoa hostel after Royal's death, and they have not been able to confirm any sightings of him.
They also told KITV that investigators don't know if he's on the island, or whether he's alive or dead, and family hasn't heard from him either.
"Everybody's been taking care of each other and staying in closer contact, because it just shows you never know when the last time will be that you're going to get to talk to someone," said Sarah Johnson, her voice cracking.
Royal's mom said, regardless of the outcome, her heart goes out to Bo's family, with so many suffering, and one more, somewhere, who needs to pay the price.
"Brittany's never coming back. She's never coming back. I want to see whoever did this, I want to see them fry. I really do," she said.
Big Island police are calling Johnson "dangerous."
"Based on the circumstances, anything is possible. So we are taking all necessary precautions," said Esteban.
Johnson is about 5-feet-7-inches-tall, about 150 pounds with a slim build and a fair complexion. He was last seen unshaven and with medium-length brown hair. He also has a tattoo of a upper body of a horse near the right side of his abdomen. He is considered dangerous.
Detectives continue to actively pursue leads in this investigation. Police ask that anyone with information on Johnson’s whereabouts contact Detective Robert Almeida at 808-961-2386 or email@example.com, Detective Fetuutuunai Amuimuia at 808-961-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Lieutenant Gregory Esteban at 808-961-2252 or email@example.com
Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.