Hawaiian Man Wrongfully Convicted of Murder Freed After Serving 26 Years

January 27, 2023

HILO, HI—A judge ordered the release of a Hawaiian man who spent the last 26 years behind bars for the rape and murder of a young woman.

Albert “Ian” Schweitzer, 51, was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to 130 years in prison for the rape, kidnapping, and murder of Dana Ireland on Christmas Eve in 1991. Albert’s brother, Shawn Schweitzer, and Frank Pauline Jr. were arrested and charged with the crime in 1997, reports Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

Hilo Circuit Judge Peter Kubota overturned Ian Schweitzer’s conviction after lawyers from The Innocence Project presented updated DNA testing, which discredited bite mark evidence, and after hearing expert testimony that Schweitzer’s 1953 Volkswagen Beetle couldn’t have made the tire tracks left at the site in Kapoho where Ireland’s bicycle was run over—the remote fishing trail where a dying Ireland was discovered.

Dana Ireland, 23, recently graduated college from Springfield, Virginia, and moved to Hawaii to be with her older sister, Sandy. Her murder received national attention and remained unsolved for years, putting pressure on police to solve the case.

“Give glory to God, the Almighty, my lord and savior,” Schweitzer said. “Thank you for blessing me with my team and family, and thank you to the judge for being an honorable judge and the prosecutor for doing the honorable things and restoring honor in the court system of Hilo.”

Schweitzer was the last of three Native Hawaiian men convicted of Ireland’s murder who remained behind bars, according to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

Pauline, who implicated the Schweitzers in a confession he later recanted, was sentenced to 160 years in prison. He was killed in 2015 in a New Mexico prison yard by another inmate.

Shawn Schweitzer—who was 16 at the time—pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a plea deal with prosecutors. His sentence was reduced to time already served.

DNA found on several key pieces of evidence in the case–including a bloody blue “Jimmy Z” brand T-shirt three witnesses testified was worn by Ireland the day of the murder, belongs to a completely different individual the court referred to as “Unknown Male No. 1.”

“The court has reviewed the credibility of the evidence presented to it, which was not available to the trial in the year 2000 by the way of modern DNA testing, and recently produced evidence regarding the tire tracks left at the Waa Waa site where Miss Ireland was found and bite-mark evidence and testimony — and polygraphic examination of Mr. Shawn Schweitzer,” Kubota said before vacating Schweitzer’s conviction.

Kubota noted the convictions of the Schweitzer brothers and Pauline was because “there was a great outrage in the community which may have led to a desire to convict someone — or anyone — for such a brutal crime.”

The judge also noted the modifications needed for Schweitzer’s car for it to match the tire tracks found at the two crime scenes would require the small Volkswagen to be made into a stretch limousine, “which is ridiculous and atrocious.”

Kubota also pointed out the paramedics that were dispatched to try to save a dying Miss Ireland had to stop at the bottom of Kahaki and requested a 4-wheel-drive vehicle be brought in because of the potholes, hills, and valleys of the roadway. It’s highly unlikely three large males and the body of a woman in a Volkswagen Bug would be able to make it through the road.

Feature Screenshots via KITV & KHON2

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