RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
People held hands yesterday during a sunset prayer vigil at Zablan Beach Park in Nanakuli in memory of Christopher Reuther, who was attacked at the park last month.
Mourners gather at beach where newcomer was slain
Friends of both victim and suspect strive to forgive and heal from the young men's fate
Children and adults, most in slippers, some in shoes, gathered yesterday at Zablan Beach Park for a sunset vigil to remember Christopher Reuther, a North Carolina man and prospective University of Hawaii law student who died after he was attacked at the beach last month.
Several family members of Less Schnabel, the man held by police in connection with Reuther's death, attended the ceremony. Schnabel's mother and some family members declined to speak with reporters.
After the memorial, community members gathered around Schnabel's family, said a prayer and gave each other hugs.
"Just because this happened, that shouldn't stop us to go forward and bring light to this world," said the Rev. Allen Cardines, of the New Hope Church in Waianae. The incident would not hold the community down, said Cardines, who asked for forgiveness from UH and Reuther's family members, who were holding a vigil yesterday in North Carolina.
"This one bad incident does not reflect on us as a whole. We're good people."
Jon Van Dyke of the UH William S. Richardson School of Law said Reuther, 34, had arrived in April to attend a welcoming ceremony because he had been accepted in a competitive law program there.
"We all feel so sad that we never even had the chance to meet him," he told the group.
Randy Goldman, a second-year law student at UH, read a Natalie Goldberg poem to the group at the request of Reuther's friend Marlo Goldstein.
"You feel the grief of the community and how they are determined to make Hawaii a better place and spread the aloha spirit," Goldman said. "In that sense, you feel that connection with everybody here."
Although he never met Reuther, Goldman said he felt a connection with him because he had wanted to study law in Hawaii and make the world a better place. "It's a dream we all had," he said.
Schnabel, 21, was charged with manslaughter last week in connection with Reuther's death and is being held on $100,000 bail. According to witnesses, Reuther was taking photographs shortly before midnight when his attacker became upset and punched him. He died of a brain hemorrhage on April 26, four days after arriving in Honolulu.
Several community members at the gathering said they had known Schnabel since he was a young boy.
"Less was a good kid," said Jackie Ku, 38, who has lived near Zablan Beach since the 1970s.
Georgia Campbell, a former Nanakuli High School science teacher, had Schnabel as a student.
"He should have been helped. It's so sad that this has happened," she said through tears.
Community members tossed flower petals into the ocean in remembrance of Reuther. Later they gathered in a circle, holding hands, and together sang "Aloha 'Oe."