Convicted of: Murder
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At around 4:30 p.m. on December 24, 1991, a vehicle struck 23-year-old Dana Ireland as she rode her bicycle down Kapoho Kai Drive on the Big Island of Hawai’i. An hour later, a woman found Dana lying in the bushes of a fishing trail in Wa’a Wa’a, miles away from the scene of the bicycle accident. Dana was dazed, partially clothed, and had been sexually assaulted. Battered and barely clinging to life, Dana tragically died in Hilo hospital early Christmas morning.
In the days following Dana’s death, the police searched for two vehicles suspected to be involved in the incident based on eyewitness accounts: a dark-colored 1970s model pickup truck and a beige-colored van. The police also collected evidence from Dana and from the crime scenes, including Dana’s undergarments, a “Jimmy Z” brand t-shirt, and a child’s shoe, all of which had Dana’s blood on them. Despite their investigation, and despite multiple tips phoned to law enforcement, police could not find the perpetrators of this crime. For three years, the case remained cold.
That changed in the spring of 1994 when a man named Frank Pauline reached out to officers regarding Dana’s case. At the time, Pauline was in prison for rape. Pauline implicated himself in Dana’s murder, rape, and kidnapping, as well as two brothers: Shawn and Ian Schweitzer. Shawn, the youngest of the group, was only sixteen at the time of the crime.
Police initially did not believe Pauline; his stories were inconsistent with the details of the crime. In fact, during his first admission, Pauline did not know that the perpetrator had attacked Dana while she was riding her bike. Furthermore, the Pauline family had long-standing animosity against the Schweitzer family, who had filed numerous complaints against the Paulines. Pauline admitted that he was not close friends with the Schweitzers.
However, Pauline’s half-brother —who was facing serious drug charges at the time—also told police that Pauline had confessed to him about committing the crimes with the Schweitzer brothers. But similar inconsistencies existed in the half-brother’s facts: Initially, the half-brother claimed that the trio committed the crimes in Ian’s ex-girlfriend’s pickup truck. Later, he changed his story to say that the three boys committed the crime using Ian’s Volkswagen bug. Despite the inconsistencies, the half-brother received a plea agreement for his drug charges so long as he cooperated with authorities to help investigate Dana’s murder.
In return for telling the police the identities of the alleged perpetrators of Dana’s murder, Frank Pauline also began to receive immediate prison benefits, including additional phone calls to his girlfriend, promises of special visitations, and preferred prison housing. After Pauline and the half-brother’s confessions, multiple informants came forward with information alleging that the Schweitzer brothers and Pauline had kidnapped, raped, and murdered Dana. Each of these informants received lesser sentences in exchange for their testimonies.
As a result of these informants’ statements, a grand jury indicted the Schweitzer brothers on October 10, 1997, for Dana’s murder, rape, and kidnapping. However, the court dismissed the charges a year later when DNA tests definitively excluded Ian, Shawn, and Pauline as the contributors to the semen left on Dana’s body. Further, bite marks found on Dana also did not match the dental impressions of Pauline or the Schweitzers.
Following this dismissal, the prosecution obtained statements from a jailhouse informant who claimed Ian confessed to the crime. Despite the lack of forensic evidence linking them to the crimes, a grand jury reindicted the Schweitzer brothers for the rape and murder in 1999.
Ian went to trial first and was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Pauline was also convicted and given a life sentence. Fearing the same would happen to him, Shawn agreed to take a plea deal and received probation.
Pauline has since recanted his statements that he and the Schweitzer brothers were involved in the crime. Investigators have also uncovered alibi evidence that attorneys did not present to the jury.
But, most powerfully, additional DNA testing has revealed an unknown fourth suspect who may have committed the crime. Discovered on the Jimmy Z t-shirt found at the scene and on Dana’s undergarments, post-conviction DNA testing discovered the profile of a single unidentified male. Because the DNA does not match any known profile, the true perpetrator of these crimes is still at large.
The Hawai’i Innocence Project and the New York Innocence Project currently represent Ian, and the California Innocence Project (formerly the California and Hawai’i Innocence Projects) currently represent Shawn Schweitzer. Despite DNA evidence definitively excluding Ian and Shawn from the crime, Ian remains in prison, and Shawn continues to be associated with Dana’s death. Through future collaboration with Hawaii’s District Attorney’s office, the innocence projects are hopeful that future proceedings will clear Shawn and Ian’s names, and that the true perpetrator will finally be brought to justice.