By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The case of a murdered 25-year-old California woman whose body was found May 28 off the Kalapana shoreline and the missing boyfriend who police believe may have killed her is garnering national media attention.
On Monday, the television news magazine “Dateline NBC” posted a story titled “The Mystery of Bo and Brittany” on its website “Inside Dateline” — referring to Boaz “Bo” Johnson, the missing 22-year-old Alaska man who police have labeled as a suspect in the strangulation death of his girlfriend, Brittany-Jane Royal.
The news magazine interviewed Royal’s mother, Julie Royal, earlier this month, and a video from that interview accompanies “Dateline’s” website story. Julie Royal, a recruiter for a Southern California law firm, told the Tribune-Herald on Wednesday that the news magazine is investigating, but is unlikely to televise a segment on the murder of Royal and disappearance and possible murder of Johnson until the mystery is solved.
“I talked to them a couple of weeks ago, and I’m going to be talking to the producer (Susan Leibowitz) and (“Dateline NBC” correspondent) Josh Mankiewicz,” she said. “My understanding is that the next step is that the producer will be going out and interviewing people in Hawaii.”
She said “Dateline NBC” became aware of her daughter’s slaying because NBC’s Southern California affiliates had the story.
“We’re only an hour outside of (Los Angeles),” Royal said. “They contacted me through the ‘Justice for Brittany-Jane Royal’ Facebook page.”
“In fact, they were at the memorial,” she continued. “They filmed the whole memorial, and hopefully they’ll use it later in the story.”
She said a lot of people have commented, both on “Dateline’s” Facebook page, which has a link to their website story, and on the ‘Justice for Brittany-Jane Royal’ page.
“The support has been great,” Royal said. “But has anyone called us and said, ‘We know what happened?’ Not yet, but they just (posted) it on Monday.”
Royal told “Dateline” that she believes “Bo holds the key to the case.”
“If somebody killed both of them, I believe that he’ll never be found,” she said. “I told them if he did kill her, then somebody knows where he is. I can’t believe that nobody knows where he is.”
Johnson’s family has told the Tribune-Herald they don’t believe their son killed Brittany, who was pregnant with the couple’s child when she died. Johnson’s sister, Sarah, told NBC the family wants to find him and believe he might also be a homicide victim.
“I think they’re in a very different place than we are. They’re in a lose-lose situation with their son,” Julie Royal said.
The Tribune-Herald attempted to contact Sarah Johnson, unsuccessfully, for this story.
Royal said that her ex-husband, Ted Royal, talked to Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth this week.
“Our update is that we really don’t know anything more,” she said. “I know there were subpoenas for all sorts of things; what those things are, we don’t really know.”
Police last month stated that Johnson is a suspect in the murder. Lt. Greg Esteban of the Hilo Criminal Investigations Section said then that there “is evidence that leads to him,” but both he and Capt. Robert Wagner declined to elaborate on what the evidence is.
“Personally, I think phone records are going to be a big thing,” Royal said. “It’s been quite public that at 8 o’clock on the morning of May 28, a gentleman … made a phone call to Bo’s phone and supposedly, he picked up the phone. That’s pretty public, and I would imagine that’s a big piece (of evidence).” Royal said she talked to the man, who confirmed to her that he spoke to Johnson at 8 a.m., about an hour-and-a-half after Royal’s body was found.
“I don’t think that’s gonna tell the whole story because there’s a hundred different scenarios,” she said. “Somebody else could have picked up the phone who killed both of them. Somebody could have had his SIM (subscriber identity module) card and put it into another phone. There are still a hundred different ways you can spin it. And I think DNA will also be a big piece, but that takes forever.”
Before Brittany-Jane Royal’s body was identified, police issued a statement mentioning that her body had a tattoo “veritas” — Latin for “truth.” Julie Royal said that she and her two sons, Schuyler, 22, and Zack, 19, got tattoos “veritas” and “aequitas” — the latter meaning “justice” in Latin. Julie Royal’s tattoos are on her wrists, Zach sports the words on his forearms and Schuyler — Sky, for short — had his right side inked with a Hawaiian Islands map and plumerias in addition to the words.
For now, the Royals are waiting and hoping for the truth and for justice.
Police ask that anyone with information on Johnson’s whereabouts contact Detective Robert Almeida at 961-2386 or email@example.com, Detective Fetuutuunai Amuimuia at 961-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Esteban at 961-2252 or email@example.com. Those who prefer anonymity may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.news/2013/08/26/20108847-the-mystery-of-bo-and-brittany