By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A 49-year-old Mountain View man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after admitting to the slaying of a neighbor in Eden Roc subdivision.
On Friday, Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura sentenced Walter Boyd Bremmer to 20 years for manslaughter and use of a firearm in the commission of a separate felony, plus one year for domestic abuse. All the charges are to run concurrently. Bremmer was originally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree robbery, but the murder charge was reduced to manslaughter and the robbery charge was dropped as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
If convicted of murder, Bremmer would have been sentenced to life in prison. He did not address the court during his brief sentencing hearing on Friday.
Bremmer shot and strangled 52-year-old Robert John “Johnny” Leong in late January 2012. Leong’s body was found Jan. 28 in the backyard of his Palainui Avenue home, a converted shipping container, “with some type of cord wrapped around his neck and tied to a floor joist of the residence,” court documents state. Police said that Leong also had multiple gunshot wounds to the head.
Neither police nor prosecutors have publicly stated a motive for the killing, but according to court documents, an acquaintance of Leong’s told police that in late December 2011, Leong had shown him cellphone photographs of a naked woman. The man said Leong had told him that he was having a sexual relationship with the woman and that the woman was Bremmer’s girlfriend.
Bremmer and his girlfriend, Cynthia Villella, had been granted a temporary restraining order against Leong on Jan. 23, five days before Leong’s body was found by his landlord, Lloyd Dela Cruz, and three days before police believe the slaying occurred. Dela Cruz told police that Leong had been living in the container since December 2011, after Leong’s trailer had burned down. Leong’s acquaintance also told police that Leong believed Bremmer and Villella’s son were responsible for the trailer fire, according to documents.
Documents state that Villella told police Bremmer had informed her he entered Leong’s home without permission and shot and strangled Leong.
Bremmer was previously linked to a homicide in Washington state. Prosecutors there granted him immunity for his testimony against another man, Erin Rieman, in the 2009 beating and strangulation death of 53-year-old fishing boat owner John Adkins of Albany, Ore.
According to the The Daily News of Longview, Wash., Bremmer told authorities that Rieman, who was Bremmer’s business partner, came back to the boat, the Tiger, on July 5, 2009, after a night of bar-hopping in Ilwaco, Wash., and attacked Adkins in the boat’s pilot house. He said that Rieman, who was hired to be the boat’s captain due to Adkins’ inexperience, put Adkins’ head through a window and threw him down a staircase into the galley. He said that Rieman then choked Adkins to death with a yellow extension cord.
Police said that Rieman and Bremmer, a deckhand on the boat, dumped Adkins’ body at sea the following day. The body has never been found.
Rieman, who was originally charged with second-degree murder, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 11 years in prison in May 2010. At his sentencing, Rieman, then 48, told Adkins’ family that he did not kill Adkins, but accepted the punishment because he failed to prevent the slaying. He didn’t accuse Bremmer, but according to police, Rieman and Bremmer were the only people present during the homicide.
The prosecutor in the case said he offered Bremmer immunity for his testimony because Bremmer admitted only to helping to dispose of Adkins’ body, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.