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Charges:

Murder, kidnapping, sexual assault

 

Length of Sentence:

Life

 

Conviction Date:

February 16, 2000

 

Exoneration Date:

January 24, 2023

 

Causes of Wrongful Conviction:

False testimony, false confession, ineffective assistance of counsel

ALBERT IAN SCHWEITZER

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On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 1991, a young woman named Dana Ireland was struck by a vehicle while she was riding a bicycle down a red cinder road on the island of Hawai'i. 

 

Dana was visiting the Big Island from her home state of Virginia, had cycled eight or so miles from her parents’ rental home in Kapoho Vacationland to a friend’s house to invite him over for Christmas Eve dinner. He was the last person likely to see Dana alive.

At approximately 5:00 p.m., witnesses passing through Kapoho Kai Drive at the entrance to Kapoho Vacationland came upon the scene of an abandoned collision, finding tire tracks in the dirt, a white tennis shoe, a mangled black bike, and clumps of blonde hair. They searched the area for the bicycle’s rider, assuming someone had been severely injured. No one was found.

Around the time the police were called to the scene of the mysterious bicycle accident, at 5:30 p.m., a woman found Dana Ireland laying miles away in the bushes of a fishing trail in Wa'a Wa'a, battered and clinging to life. Dana was incoherent, partially clothed, and believed she was the apparent victim of a sexual assault. They waited for an hour and a half before emergency services arrived when Dana was taken to Hilo Hospital. She tragically died at 12:07 a.m. on December 25th, 1991, from massive blood loss. 

 

In the days following Dana’s death, the police exclusively searched for two types of vehicle which were suspected to be involved in the incident; a dark-colored 1970’s model pickup truck and a light-colored van. 

 

In the years following the murder, the Ireland family was active publicly and politically to put pressure on authorities to get the case solved. In the spring of 1994, Frank Pauline and his half-brother John Gonsalves, began to opportunistically barter falsified testimonies in exchange for personal benefits in ongoing, unrelated criminal charges they were facing. In the spring of 1994, Frank Pauline was in prison for rape and John Gonsalves and other members of the family were facing serious drug charges. Frank Pauline began by implicating himself and two brothers named Ian and Shawn Schweitzer. Ian was twenty years old at the time of the murder, and his younger brother Shawn was sixteen. The Pauline family lived across the street from the Schweitzer family and their families had a long-standing animosity towards each other. Pauline initially acknowledged that he was not a close friend of the Schweitzers, but claimed that the brothers had picked him up in their Volkswagen Bug on Christmas Eve, 1991, so they could go and do drugs. Pauline’s story was not initially believed by the lead Detective because his story was so inconsistent with the facts. Gonsalves also told police that Frank Pauline had confessed to him that he and the Schweitzer brothers were responsible for the murder, sexual assault, and kidnapping of Dana Ireland. 

 

In exchange for telling the police the identities of the alleged perpetrators of the Ireland murder, Frank Pauline immediately began to receive all manner of benefits, from additional phone calls to his girlfriend, to promises of special visitations, to preferred housing in the prison. John Gonsalves and other family members received highly favorable deals in their pending narcotics case in exchange for their cooperation in the Ireland investigation. 

 

The Schweitzer brothers were indicted on October 10th, 1997, but the charges were dismissed without prejudice on October 20th, 1998 when DNA testing definitively excluded Ian Schweitzer, Shawn Schweitzer, and Frank Pauline as the contributors of the semen of an unknown male left on Dana’s body. Despite the lack of DNA evidence, the Schweitzer brothers were re-indicted on May 20th, 1999. 

 

The only DNA that has been identified at either the crash scene or the fishing trail is that of Dana Ireland, and that of an unknown male. This DNA profile has been unsuccessfully run through the CODIS database, and as of today this DNA still has not been matched. A bloody t-shirt was also found at the Wa'a Wa'a scene, which was alleged to have belonged to Frank Pauline. Previous DNA testing methods done during trial and shorlty after were unable to yield a DNA profile of the shirt’s owner because the shirt was so heavily saturated in Dana’s blood. New DNA testing recently conducted by HIP, has now conclusively shown that the DNA on the shirt is the same unknown male profile as the semen found on Dana. 

 

No DNA found has ever matched any of the Defendants to this heinous crime. Additionally, both Schweitzer brothers had alibis at the time of the crime, neither of which was used at trial. The vehicle Pauline stated was used during the crime, Ian’s purple VW bug, was not even owned by Ian at the time of the crime but was purchased two months after the crime occurred. Despite the lack of physical evidence, Pauline and Ian Schweitzer were convicted of Dana’s murder, kidnapping and rape. Shawn Schweitzer following the guilty verdicts in the two preceding trials, plead guilty and received credit for time served.  

 

In 2017, additional DNA testing was done on the Jimmy Z' t-shirt that found that the same unknown male who left his DNA on other crime scene evidence was also the habitual wearer of the Jimmy Z' t-shirt. Sperm was also found on the Jimmy Z' t-shirt which also belonged to the same unknown male. All three defendants were excluded from any of the DNA found on the Jimmy Z' t-shirt. With the hopes of freeing Ian, in 2019 HIP joined with the Innocence Project ("IP") in New York and entered into a joint reinvestigation agreement with the Hawai'i County Prosecuting Attorney's office were we agreed to share information and to help identify the unknown male whose DNA was on all the crime scene evidence tested. HIP and IP also hired two new experts to evaluate the tire tread evidence found at both crime scenes and the pattern injury on Dana Ireland's body that was purported to be a bitemark. The tire tread expert Matthew Marvin concluded that Ian's VW Beetle could not have produced the tire tracks at the Wa'a Wa'a scene, likely did not produce the tire tracks at the bicycle collision scene, and that the same vehicle may have produced the tire tracks at both the bicycle collision scene and the Wa'a Wa'a scene. Forensic Odontologist Dr. Adam Freeman also reviewed the pattern injury found on Dana Ireland's body and concluded that the injury on Dana Ireland was not a bitemark as testified to at trial. Lastly, in 2022 Shawn Schweitzer met with Hawai'i County Prosecutors and recanted his prior confession and stated that both a he and his brother Ian were innocent of Dana Ireland's murder and had not been involved in the crime in any way. Shawn also took a polygraph examination from expert Mark Handler, who concluded that Shawn passed the polygraph and showed no signs of deception.

On January 23, 2023, HIP and IP attorneys filed a Joint Stipulated Facts with the Hawai'i County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. In this Joint Stipulation, the parties did not dispute the newly discovered DNA, bitemark, or recantation evidence and did not dispute the newly presented tire tread evidence. On January 23, 2023, HIP and IP attorneys also filed a new Rule 40 Petition seeking to vacate Ian's conviction and release him from custody. At an evidentiary hearing on January 24, 2023 before Honorable Judge Kubota of the Third Circuit Court in Hilo, HIP and IP attorneys presented this newly discovered and newly presented evidence. At the conclusion of this hearing, Judge Kubota found that this newly discovered and newly presented evidence would likely produce an acquittal of Ian's charges at a retrial and that the newly presented evidence goes towards a showing of actual innocence. On January 24, 2023, Judge Kubota ordered that Ian's conviction be vacated and that he be immediately released from custody. Judge Kubota also dismissed Ian's indictment without prejudice. Ian walked out of the courtroom that day as a free man into the arms of his family and friends.

You can also help seek justice in this case by providing us with any information that may help identify the unknown male whose DNA was found at the crime scene. Please contact us at contacthip@hawaiiinnocenceproject.org.

 

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