Law student accepted to UH is killed
An idealistic advocate of local culture is killed while visiting Nanakuli
Christopher Reuther's zest for education and the environment brought him to Honolulu, where he had been accepted at the University of Hawaii law school.
But the 34-year-old man's life was cut short last week after a suspected blow to the neck during a confrontation at a Nanakuli beach park.
Reuther died days later as the result of a brain hemorrhage, and his alleged assailant, 21, was charged yesterday with manslaughter.
Reuther, from North Carolina, is remembered by his family and friends as a kind, passionate and curious person whose lust for learning never wavered.
Christopher Reuther landed in Hawaii last week hoping to start a new chapter in his life.
"We never expected it to be the end," said his sister, 38-year-old Heather Litton, from her Connecticut home.
Reuther, 34, of North Carolina, was accepted to study environmental law at the University of Hawaii. Friends and family said his zeal for traveling, culture and experience brought him to Honolulu on April 22 to visit the campus.
It is the same reason he drove a rental car to a luau the day he arrived, and why he decided to camp at Zablan Beach Park in Nanakuli.
A 21-year-old Nanakuli man, Less Schnabel Jr., was arrested at his home Wednesday on suspicion of second-degree murder. He was charged yesterday with manslaughter and was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Litton said her brother's love for local culture and the environment led him to camp out at the beach.
He was taking photos, his other passion, shortly before midnight when Schnabel allegedly became upset and punched him in the neck.
Dr. Kanthi de Alwis, the Honolulu medical examiner, said the blow caused bleeding at the base of the brain, formally known as a traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage.
Family members say he was clinically dead by April 24 but remained on life support. By then, Litton had arrived in Hawaii.
"I was looking down at him and saying, 'This isn't really Chris,' because he had his whole future ahead of him," Litton said. "He loved to record what he saw. He really cared about how local cultures are affected these days. The man who hit him ... Chris would've been his ally."
Litton was with Reuther when doctors at the Hawaii Medical Center removed her brother from life support on April 26.
Since then the family has been reeling in shock. Litton said she was close with her brother, and struggled to speak when asked to remember their childhood together.
Reuther is also survived by parents Judy Wilson and Philip Reuther, and extended family.
"It just seems senseless in every single way," Litton said. "It's just beyond what I'm able to process at this time."
Reuther's career embodied his two passions. He worked as senior photography editor and graphic designer for Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The publication's news editor, Kimberly Thigpen Tart, considered Reuther a longtime friend and colleague.
"But it's not just a personal loss," Tart said. "He was brilliant and passionate about public service. He truly thought that's how things needed to be accomplished, and he believed in the power of individuals."
Reuther earned bachelor's degrees in public health and journalism, and was accepted into four law schools. Tart said Reuther dreamed of studying environmental law and working for the United Nations.
"He was an idealist and he refused to be cynical," Tart said.
Reuther's death is the third murder case involving a visitor in Hawaii this year. Tadeusz "Ted" Jandura, 83, has been indicted in the murder of his 82-year-old wife, Ingeborg Jandura. They are both from Canada.
Kirk Lankford, 22, of Kalihi has been indicted in the ongoing murder investigation of 21-year-old Masumi Watanabe, who has been missing since April 12 and has yet to be found.