Mother of slain victim frustrated by outcome
Grieving mother Judy Wilson recalled five minutes of relief on Wednesday with word that her son's killer had been convicted of manslaughter.
But stress kicked in again when Wilson, the 68-year-old mother of North Carolina visitor Christopher Reuther, learned that Less Schnabel Jr. walked free on bail and might receive probation.
"I can't stand it anymore," Wilson said yesterday from her North Carolina home. "I think the jury did a wonderful job, but I don't think justice has been served at all. Why is he free, and my son sitting here in a box of ashes?"
On Wednesday a jury found Schnabel, 23, guilty of manslaughter for throwing a fatal punch at Reuther at Zablan Beach Park in Nanakuli last year.
Despite a protest from prosecutors, Judge Michael Town allowed Schnabel to walk free on bail. The reason: Schnabel had never missed an appointment during bail, never tested positive for drugs and completed an anger management course during his time out.
Under Hawaii law, Town could sentence Schnabel to 10 years of probation -- or 20 years in prison.
Deputy Prosecutor Darrell Wong said he plans to advocate for the harsher sentence by bringing up Schnabel's previous convictions and arrests as a juvenile. At 17, Schnabel was convicted of punching a man in the eye socket and nearly killing him.
Wilson attended Schnabel's trial until the middle of last week. At that point, she and daughter Heather Litton could not afford to stay on Oahu any longer.
But she plans to return for Schnabel's sentencing Sept. 10 and hopes to see more of the island.
"I just had this feeling that Hawaii was awful because my son was killed out there," Wilson said. "But almost everybody out there was just wonderful."
During her stay, Wilson met with 45-year-old Malia May of Kapolei and the staff at the Organ Donor Center of Hawaii. Reuther was an organ donor, and May was one of five people who received his organs after he died.
Reuther's pancreas and kidney cured May of a lifelong diabetic affliction. Wilson said she had dinner with May's family.
"They could not be more kind and gracious," Wilson said. "I just want to tell them how meaningful it was to see that a part of my son is still alive."
Wilson said she was taken aback about witness testimony that Reuther bought marijuana at the park. Eventually, she said she came to terms with the possibility that Reuther might have been trying to fit in.
"He didn't go there because he was looking for drug action," said Wilson, adding that the medical examiner found no traces of drugs in his system. "But knowing my son and knowing how desperately he wanted to get along with people, he wanted to be friends with these guys."
She also met with officials from the University of Hawaii law school, which had attracted Reuther as a prospective student.