David Shapiro
Volcanic Ash logo

By David Shapiro

Saturday, June 5, 1999

Dana Ireland
murder case
brings tears

THE headstone on a family grave in Shipman, Va., tells the saddest of stories.

Dana Marie 1968 - 1991
Marie Louise Crank 1924 -
John Austin 1924 -
Sandra Louise 1955 -

The youngest one isn't supposed to die first. It rips a hole in a family that never mends.

What makes this faraway grave of interest here is that the family name on the headstone is Ireland. In 1991, Dana Marie Ireland, 23, was raped and murdered in the Big Island's Puna district in one of Hawaii's most vicious crimes. The first of three men indicted in the case goes on trial in Hilo next month.

I've spent a lot of time with Dana Ireland lately. We're doing a moving series on her life and death beginning Tuesday and I've read some of the stories 10 times in the editing process.

Usually, you get numb to even the most horrible subjects after so many readings. But not this story. I still have to pause often to gather myself as I read. Crystal Kua, a lead writer who has lived with the story for months, says the same thing. Mike Rovner, our assistant managing editor, says, "This is the toughest story I've ever had to lay out."

Why does a nearly 8-year-old murder of somebody we didn't know bring up such emotion?

It starts with the unimaginable brutality of the crime. Dana Ireland was enjoying a serene bike ride along the Puna coast the day before Christmas when some unspeakable lowlifes deliberately ran her down with their car, crushing the tiny woman and mangling her bicycle beyond recognition. Then they raped her bloodied, broken body and, according to one account, clubbed her head with a tire iron to finish her off before dumping her in a thorn bush.

Ireland clung to life after the attack and could have made it. But police dispatchers were slow sending an ambulance and gave bad directions. While her life slipped away, rescuers argued whether to risk their vehicles on the rough rural road to where Ireland lay.

The victim's innocence was compelling. You look at Dana Ireland's open face and are overwhelmed by how someone so trusting could be lost to such evil.

Overwhelmed is a word Big Island officials use often to explain the bungled rescue and inept investigation that took more than seven years to bring suspects to trial.

But it wasn't an overwhelming task to send an ambulance to pick up Dana Ireland. It wasn't an overwhelming detective job to find killers who weren't exactly criminal masterminds.

When I left Hilo in 1978, a crack team of police, prosecutors and judges was making the Big Island proud by bringing down the state's top organized crime figures when their Oahu counterparts couldn't.

Now these institutions bring the island only embarrassment with the Ireland case, the Matheson case and, most recently, the Wilmer case. What happened?

It's up to jurors to decide if Frank Pauline Jr. and brothers Shawn and Albert Ian Schweitzer raped and murdered Dana Ireland. The cases against them hardly seem open and shut.

Dana Ireland was more than just a criminal case, though. Get to know her and her story in our series Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You'll weep for Dana Ireland. You'll mourn the hollow lives of the family she left behind. But you'll also celebrate the joy and energy with which Dana Marie Ireland graced this Earth for 23 years.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

Previous Volcanic Ash columns

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin