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Murder confession found in Hawaii near body of former Petersburg man

The Hawaii Police Department says its investigation into the death of a 25-year-old pregnant woman has ended. The body of 22-year-old Boaz David Johnson -- the woman’s boyfriend and a former resident of Petersburg, Alaska -- was found hanging from a tree on the island of Hawaii earlier this month, and a notebook found near Johnson’s body contained a murder confession, Big Island police reported.

Johnson had been missing since May 27. On May 28, Brittany Jane Royal’s body was discovered, caught in a fishing line in the waters off Kalapana -- a town located on the southeastern edge of the Big Island where Johnson and Royal had been living. Police said they identified the body as Royal's through fingerprints. She had recently moved there from Tustin, Calif., according to a Hawaii Police Department press release.

Johnson also had recently moved to Hawaii from Petersburg.

Hawaii police Lt. Greg Esteban told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that Royal had marks on her neck, and a medical examiner said the young woman died of strangulation. The Advertiser said court documents indicated bundled nylon rope was found inside the couple’s tent in Kalapana.

After Royal’s body was found, Johnson told a friend over the phone that he and Royal were in good health and on their way to another town north of the campsite, according to the press release. “That phone call, in addition to DNA and other evidence found at the crime scene, made Johnson an early suspect in Royal’s murder,” the release said.

In mid-December 2013, a grand jury indicted Johnson for a second-degree murder, though the indictment was sealed so police could locate and arrest him. About two weeks later, Johnson’s body was reportedly found hanging from a tree.

“A composition book was found near Johnson’s body,” the release said. “In three handwritten pages, the writer -- who identified himself as Boaz Johnson -- confessed to strangling Royal while involved in a domestic dispute and to throwing her body into the ocean. He also indicated his intention to end his life.”

A forensic document examiner determined the handwriting in the notebook was Johnson’s.

The case remains officially open as detectives still have “minor follow-ups” before prosecutors conduct their final review.

Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter @jerzyms.