Schnabel guilty of manslaughter in tourist death

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A leeward Oahu man was convicted Wednesday of killing a tourist, but was allowed to walk out of the courthouse a free man.

Behind the defense table, tears flow even before the verdict is read.

"We, the jury in this case, find the defendant guilty," the court clerk announced.

A panel of six men and six women deliberates for one full day before convicting Less Schnabel, Jr. of manslaughter.

"My reaction is kind of mixed," said Heather Litton, the victim's sister. "I think that, obviously, no verdict is going to bring my brother back."

Christopher Reuther, an aspiring law school from North Carolina, died after Schnabel punched him in the head at Zablan Beach Park in Nanakuli last year.

Upon hearing the verdict, prosecutors say the victim's mother on the mainland is overcome with emotion.

"She says there has not been a day or an hour where she has not thought about her son and wished that he was back," deputy prosecutor Darrell Wong said.

Prosecutors ask the judge to revoke Schnabel's bail and order him into custody immediately. But the judge denies that request, allowing him to be free until his sentencing.

"I don't really understand that," Litton said. "It seems that, you know, once you're found guilty, it seems like you should remain in custody."

The punishment for manslaughter ranges from probation to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors call the 23-year-old Schnabel a dangerous man who carried out a similar attack as a juvenile.

"What goes on in court is just the tip of an iceberg of an entire person's history," Wong said.

Schnabel, his family and his attorney decline comment.

But Reuther's mother has this message.

"Although this has been a most tragic situation for her, she loves the people of Hawaii," Wong said.

Schnabel is scheduled to be sentenced September 10.