A decomposed body discovered early Monday evening on the South Kohala coast is that of a musician who was last seen alive on Thanksgiving Day, and police say he was murdered.
Police said the remains found on vacant land between Queen Kaahumanu Highway and Puako Beach Drive were identified through dental records as 37-year-old Robert Keawe Lopaka Ryder of Kailua-Kona, who was known professionally as Lopaka Ryder.
An autopsy conducted on Wednesday determined that Ryder died from blunt force trauma to the head and that the manner of death was homicide.
A Hawaii News Now story on Wednesday quoted police sources as saying detectives were led to the body by a person who told them he had been coerced by another individual to “corner” Ryder, and that the alleged accomplice said he saw that individual shoot Ryder and that he assisted the alleged shooter in disposing of the body. The television story said that individual named by the alleged accomplice is incarcerated on other charges.
Asked on Thursday if there was evidence that Ryder had been shot and to comment on the accuracy of that account, Lt. Gerald Wike of the Kona Criminal Investigations Section replied: “At this time, it’s an ongoing investigation and I’m disclosing what can be disclosed from the autopsy itself, and the determination of the cause of death.”
Wike said a motive is “unknown” at this time.
Ku‘uMomilani Melissa White, who has identified Ryder as her husband in recent online posts — court records indicate she was granted a divorce from Ryder in 2006 — declined to talk to the Tribune-Herald, asking that “we respect the wishes of the family as we are going through this.”
There were numerous expressions of condolences on White’s Facebook page on Thursday. One read: “I’ve followed your heart wrenching posts from the start! No one deserves that…I pray with God you will find peace and that justice will be served! Love to you all!”
Posted by another: “My heart is broken into a billion pieces right now, I cannot imagine what you’re going through but I do have sincere empathy and genuine compassion.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.