Tuesday, June 8, 1999

A Cry for Help -- A young woman bicycling on a scenic Big Island country road in 1991 was savagely attacked and left dying, her only hope a faint cry of 'Help me. Help me'
Courtesy of John and Louise Ireland
An image of Dana taken from her mother's favorite photograph of her.
Inset top: Dana Ireland while attending George Mason University.

By Crystal Kua


The new, white tennis shoe on the red cinder road in Vacationland caught Anna Sherrell's eye.

It was just her size.

She got out of her van to look for the other shoe. Instead, Sherrell found a mangled mountain bike, strands of blond hair, fresh blood, a broken watch and tire tracks.

Five miles away, Ida Smith heard a faint cry that drifted from a grove of pandanus trees across the rural road from her Waawaa home.

"Help me. Help me."

FOLLOWING the girlish voice to a nearby fishing trail, Smith came upon a crumpled and bloodied figure dumped on piercing naupaka shrubs. It was a young woman barely alive. Her clothes were torn and she was paralyzed with pain.

She wore one white tennis shoe.

What Anna Sherrell and Ida Smith witnessed on Christmas Eve in 1991 shocked the community and led to a tortuous criminal investigation that continues today.

The young woman was Dana Ireland.

The bike ride

Earlier that afternoon, Dana rode her bicycle from Vacationland in Kapoho, where her parents were staying for the holidays, to visit a friend who lived nearly seven miles away in Opihikao.

She invited the friend, Mark Evans, for Christmas Eve dinner. He accepted the invitation and offered to give Ireland a ride home. She declined.

Investigators have pegged her departure from Opihikao at 4:10 p.m.

She biked along scenic Route 137, nicknamed the "Red Road" because the pavement is made from red cinders. The bumpy, twisting stretch of road follows the eastern shoreline of the Big Island in lower Puna.

Graphic design by Mike Rovner; Illustsration by David Swann, Star-Bulletin

Dana, 23, was staying with her older sister in Kapoho after graduating from college in Virginia a few months earlier. Her sister was a longtime resident of the area, and Dana was a fitness buff who loved the outdoors and dreamed of living in Hawaii.

Dana wanted to get some exercise that afternoon. On her way from Evans' house, she rolled by Opihikao Congregational Church. A canopy of mango trees and coconut palms hung overhead, letting only thin rays of sunshine peek through.

The cathedral of trees along the way would open up to reveal dramatic vistas of a sapphire ocean crashing against jagged black lava rocks.

Although John Ireland, Dana Ireland's father, has been critical of the Big Island police investigation and some Hawaii County authorities, neither he nor his wife, Louise, have ill feelings toward islanders.

"I think the people in Hawaii have done as much, maybe more, for us than our neighbors," John Ireland said. "It's a different type of caring. If there's a tragedy in a family in Hawaii, it touches their neighbors and a lot of people they don't even know. I've seen that.

"Just because a couple of bums out of a couple hundred thousand do bad things, that is not the fault of the citizens of Hawaii."


Valerie Oliver, a longtime friend of Dana's, remembers when she and her pal were headed to an airfield to go skydiving. Halfway there, Dana decided she didn't want to do it.

"In December, I got a postcard from her that said she wished she had. She said we'd have to get together again, just to do that." Dana died a few weeks later.

"It never took place."


When Mike Dickerson married recently, Louise Ireland cried.

Dickerson had been a bicycling buddy of Dana's and had become close to her daughter over the years. He was devastated when she was killed.

"Then he met this other girl. I was jealous because he was going to get married and it could have been Dana. But he said he had to go on with his life. And he's expecting a baby."


Louise Ireland had fixed up a holiday dinner she was proud of.

"I had a turkey going and all kinds of stuff. I had sweet potatoes. I had pies."

Until recently, she had forgotten about the Christmas Eve feast that was pre-empted by her daughter's death.

"You know, I don't know what happened to that turkey," she said. "I wonder who ate it."

Cynthia Oi, Star-Bulletin

The shoe

Between deep drags on a cigarette, Sherrell sips a pau hana margarita in a Mexican restaurant in Pahoa. In her late 40s, dark-haired and tanned, she is a familiar figure greeted by customers and workers.

Some of her recollections of that Christmas Eve are fuzzy. Others are sharply focused.

She remembers working in her yard and swimming in the tide pools for which Vacationland is known. In the afternoon, she caught the "Geraldo" show, which ended at 5. Then she loaded the trash in her van and headed out for the 10-mile trip to the dump in Pahoa. She was hungry, so she planned to pick up Chinese food for dinner.

Beachgoers were always losing stuff along Kapoho Kai Drive. They'd forget to shut their tailgates or leave their shoes on top of the car, then drive off.

She remembers seeing a sneaker and thinking, "Wow, it's a brand new tennis shoe. ... Well, it's just my size, too, and I'll check it out and see if I can find the other one."

But something looked weird.

"I seen these bushes messed up on the side of the road there."

Almost home

About halfway home, Dana Ireland arrived at Isaac Hale Beach Park. She may have circled the area looking at the waves, according to some accounts.

She took a left at the park, and a few yards up the road, she came to a popular surfing spot known as Shacks. Several young men were hanging out there.

Among the men were Frank Pauline Jr., Albert Ian Schweitzer and Shawn Schweitzer, who arrived in a purple 1957 Volkswagen Beetle, witnesses have told investigators.

One witness told police a "nice-looking girl" on a bike passed by the group. The men waved and whistled. She waved back and rode on.

About 10 to 15 minutes after the bicyclist passed, the Schweitzer brothers and Pauline jumped into the Volkswagen and headed in the same direction, witnesses said.

After Shacks, Dana passed the warm springs in Kapoho and then came to open fields of a'a lava flows. She finally turned right onto Kapoho Kai Drive, which leads in and out of Vacationland.

With her bicycle tires crunching over the loose cinders about 30 minutes after leaving Opihikao, she was less than half a mile from her parents' rental home.

The tracks

Sherrell and other witnesses have described the tracks, clearly visible in the red cinders.

The marks of a bicycle tire were on the right side of Kapoho Kai Road, headed toward the ocean. There were also deep car tracks that crossed the road and intersected with the bike tracks.

"It was a pretty hard impact," Sherrell says. "They knocked her shoe like three-quarters of a block up the street."

The tracks indicated the car ran over somebody. Then the vehicle looped around and came back to the point of impact, she says. "To me, it looked like they turned around, picked whoever it was up."

She remembers seeing something shiny. It was Dana's watch.

"It had been broken off. They had hit her so hard, her clasp was snapped."

She saw the hair and the blood.

Then she saw the bicycle.

"It was just smashed. It took me all of a minute to figure out it was a bicycle. I thought it was a hunk of junk someone threw out with the trash."

As she looked at the wreckage, she realized someone might be injured nearby.

"I was doing my Nancy Drew thing," referring to the fictional teen-age detective of children's books. "Possibly she'd been knocked off in the bushes, so I searched around frantically."

A man later identified in court documents as Ritch Trenda drove up. He'd been snorkeling nearby and had a camera with him. He snapped several shots of the scene and the tire tracks and directed traffic around them. He joined Sherrell in her search, but they came up empty.

"I could not find a body. I looked," Sherrell says.

The injured person would need help quickly.

"I was freaking out. I knew that someone would have been just seriously hurt, so I called the cops. I felt it was my job to report this."

She placed the call at 5:25 p.m.

'Who did this to my baby?'

Sandra Ireland and her boyfriend, Jim Ingham, had just finished wrapping Christmas gifts. They were on the way to the house rented by her parents, John and Louise Ireland, who were visiting Sandra and her younger sister, Dana, for the holidays.

Hilo Police Dispatch Call
Click play button for Quicktime Sound:

Bullet [Click this link for AIFF Sound]

As Sandra and Jim drove by the accident scene, just yards from the rental home, Sandra recognized the bicycle.

She went to the house and asked her parents if Dana was there.

"I said no." John Ireland recalled. "She said, 'Then something terrible has happened.'"

John Ireland walked to the site, then went back to the house to call police. His call came in a minute after Sherrell's.

The first officer arrived just before nightfall.

Patrolman Robert Wagner got there at 5:36 p.m. Four minutes later, Officer Harold Pinnow and Sgt. Gabriel Malani arrived.

As the Ireland family gathered at the scene "the parents were going, 'Who did this to my baby? Who did this to my baby?' It was real sad," Sherrell remembers. "The whole thing was real sad."

By Dean Sensui, Star-Bulletin

"I went down there and found her.
I was in shock. I couldn't believe
somebody could do that to another
human being."

Ida Smith


'Help me, help me'

Built high off the ground, Ida and Merrill Smith's wooden house has been weathered by wind, sun and salt. From their front room -- a porch that has been enclosed -- they can see a glorious lava coastline and the deep blue ocean.

Ida Smith is a hefty woman, a great-grandmother who is reluctant to tell her age.

She remembers her husband was at work that afternoon when she looked at her wall clock and saw that it was 4:45.

"I said, 'It's time for me to start dinner,'" she recalls.

Shortly after that she heard screeching tires, and her thoughts went to a nearby fishing trail.

Fishermen were always getting their cars stuck on that trail off Government Beach Road, grinding their wheels to get onto the pavement.

Then she heard a soft voice.

"Help me. Help me."

She thought kids were playing at the house next door.

"It sounded like a little girl's voice. ... It stopped for a little bit and then I heard it again," Smith said.

"Help me. Help me."

She listened to the voice for 5 or 10 minutes and decided "I'll just be nosy."

The voice wasn't coming from the neighbor's house.

Thinking that someone might be stuck on the trail, she walked down there with her two dogs.

"I kept hearing a voice. I started to call back, 'I'm coming, don't worry, I'm coming.'"

When she reached the top of the trail, she expected to see a stranded vehicle or person. "And there was nothing."

"Help me. Help me."

"OK, I'm coming," Smith recalls saying.

The dogs ran down the rock path in front of her, then stopped.

"I went down there and found her. I was in shock. I couldn't believe somebody could do that to another human being.

"It looked like someone just picked her up and threw her there. It was so uncaring. So vicious."

Screaming bloody murder

The woman was bleeding. She'd been struck by a car and raped. Her denim shorts were wrapped around her ankles, and her shirt was pulled up to her shoulders.

She had bite marks and scratches on her body, and a large gash on her head. Her blond hair was drenched in blood. The wound revealed her skull.

The memories still painful, Smith weeps.

"She was in such pain and crying."

Smith asked the woman, "Who did this to you?"

"She said she didn't know. She thought I was a man. She was incoherent."

Smith asked her name. She didn't answer.

"The flies were coming because of the blood and I wanted to cover her so I said, 'Well, you wait here and I'll go up and get something to cover you.' But she wouldn't let me leave," Smith says, her voice quivering.

Smith tried to pull her up off the prickly shrubs, but the woman screamed in pain.

The woman said the shorts around her ankles were uncomfortable and asked Smith to take them off. Smith obliged.

"She had only one shoe on," Smith recalls.

The woman still didn't want her to leave, so Smith said, " 'Well, let me pray with you.' So I held her hand in mine, trying to hold back my tears, and I prayed with her."

As they prayed, the woman "just calmed right down."

Smith was then able to go home and get a quilt, which she used to cover the woman. Smith talked to her, tried to soothe her and listened, hoping to hear a car.

Waawaa has no electricity and no phone service. The only way to get help was to stop a motorist.

The first vehicle arrived just before nightfall. Resident Hazel Franklin, then known as Hazel Allan, was driving down the road in a pickup truck. Smith, as Franklin would later say, came up "screaming bloody murder."

"I wasn't about to let that car get past," Smith says.

She asked Franklin to call police. Franklin drove off and placed the call at 5:47 p.m., more than an hour after Dana had been attacked.

Smith stopped a second car with four occupants, and they stayed to help.

Once before, Smith saved a life

By Rod Thompson


Ida Smith wanted to put Dana Ireland in the back of her car and drive her to help, but a police officer at the scene, following standard procedures, told her not to.

It just wouldn't be a good thing to do, he told Smith.

Two decades earlier, Smith ignored standard procedures and saved a life.

In the early 1970s she was working at Olowalu Store in West Maui when she saw a shirtless man on a motorcycle speed by, then suddenly veer off the highway and slide on gravel.

"He was unconscious on the ground," Smith said. Then he woke up screaming.

Her boss, a paramedic, said it would be OK to put the man in Smith's car, and she drove him toward Wailuku.

On the way, she saw an ambulance coming from Wailuku. She stopped it, ambulance workers transferred the injured man, and the ambulance drove away.

She didn't hear what happened to him.

Three years later the man walked into Smith's shop and told her he had suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung.

"I just came to thank you for saving my life," he said.

Hurt bad

Officer Pinnow left the accident scene in Vacationland at 6:03 p.m., getting to Waawaa more than an hour after Smith found the injured woman.

"When he first arrived, he got out of the car and I was hollering at him to open his trunk," Smith said.

She thought he'd have a first aid kit or a blanket, but she says Pinnow told her those items were optional. Recently, however, officials said police have always been required to carry first aid kits.

Pinnow went down the trail, then came back up to his car.

"Sarge," Smith recalls him saying on his radio, "you got to do something. You've got to send some help. God, she's really hurt bad."

"He was pleading with them. I was standing right there listening. He was doing the best he could to get help," Smith says.

A nurse arrived, offering her assistance.

Smith went home, drove her Chevy Suburban to the trail and turned on the headlights so that all could see as they helped the woman. When Smith suggested driving her to the hospital, Pinnow said it might not be a good idea to move her.

The ambulance arrived at Waawaa at 6:50 p.m., more than an hour after Franklin called for help and almost two hours after Smith found the woman. It left for Hilo Hospital 23 minutes later.

"When they put her in the ambulance, I really thought she was going to make it," Smith recalls.

Smith went home, planning to visit the woman in the hospital the following day.

"The next morning on the news when I found out she died, that just blew me away."

By Cynthia Oi, Star-Bulletin
Dana's parents, John and Louise Ireland, at their home.

The aftermath

Dana Ireland was cremated on Dec. 28, 1991.

The timing and brutality of the attack shocked the community. Family members pleaded for information about possible suspects, and Vacationland residents offered a reward to anyone who could help solve the case.

Nobody collected the money.

Delays by rescue workers raised questions about the Big Island's emergency response system and led to a lawsuit filed by the Irelands. In 1996, the county settled the suit for $452,000.

The murder investigation continued.

More than seven years and a half years after Dana was struck by a car, kidnapped, beaten, raped and dumped near the fishing trail, police were still gathering evidence.

Three men have been arrested and indicted in the murder. One of those men, Frank Pauline Jr., confessed five years ago and implicated the other two, Albert Ian and Shawn Schweitzer.

Nobody has gone to trial.


Courtesy of John and Louise Ireland
3-year-old Dana on the patio of the
Irelands' home in Springfield, Va.

Tuesday, June 8

Bullet Blurred through the years is the real Dana. She lives on, though -- beautiful, shy, kind -- in the memories of those who knew her. The innocent. The indicted. Anatomy of a murder. The what and where of the attack. Who's who in the Dana Ireland tragedy.

Wednesday, June 9

Bullet Help came too late for Dana Ireland. From the moment she was hit by her attackers' car until the time an ambulance reached her, more than two hours passed. Here's how minutes -- and a life -- were lost.

Thursday, June 10

Bullet Life has gone on since the Dec. 24, 1991, attack. Memories have faded. Witnesses have scattered. But each twist and turn in the seven-year bid to bring to justice those responsible means fresh injury, not only to Dana's family but to witnesses whose lives have been put on hold by this on-again, off-again case.

No Frames: Tuesday, June 8 | Wednesday, June 9 | Thursday, June 10

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