Officials confirm a man convicted in the 1991 kidnapping, rape and murder of a woman on the Big Island has died.
Frank Pauline Jr., 42, was serving two consecutive life terms for the death of 23-year-old Dana Ireland.
Authorities said Monday he was found in the recreation yard of Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility and was given CPR but died.
The New Mexico Corrections Department, alongside the New Mexico State Police, is investigating his death.
No suspects have been named at this time.
Pauline’s half-brother, John Gonsalves, told KHON2 he got a call from the prison. He was told Pauline had been in a fight and was hit in the head with a rock.
“All she said is by the time they got there, there was over a hundred people she told me, and by the time they got to my brother, he was already dead,” he said.
Gonsalves is in disbelief. He had just spoken with Pauline shortly before it happened to wish him a happy birthday.
“I just talked to him before that lady called he said he was going to the rec,” he said. “Then to find your brother got killed in prison where he survived over 20 years on his birthday, I don’t know. I don’t even know what to say.”
On Christmas Eve 1991, Ireland was run over while bicycling in the Big Island’s remote Puna district.
She was raped, beaten and died Christmas morning at Hilo Medical Center.
Pauline confessed to the media to being present during the attack, but later recanted and claimed innocence during his trial.
He was convicted in 1999. It was upheld in 2002 by the Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii. Read the full opinion here.
Another man, Albert Ian Schweitzer, was also convicted in Ireland’s death. He must serve at least 130 years in prison before being considered eligible for parole.
Shawn Schweitzer, Albert’s brother, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2000. He was sentenced to five years probation and a year in jail.
He was 16 years old at the time of his crime and prosecutors said he played a minor role.
Pauline’s death comes one day after the possibility that the murder case might be reopened. The Innocence Project wants to reexamine DNA evidence that was recovered at the murder scene.
Gonsalves tells us that Pauline was upbeat after hearing the news. “He was glad that finally the truth was going to come out and everybody’s going to see and he’s going to prove his innocence and he wanted to come home,” he said.
Gonsalves says he believes new information on the case might have had something to do with the killing of his brother.
“It’s just hard to believe. It’s hard to swallow. I don’t get it. I honestly don’t get it. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist for crying out loud to look at the big picture and know that something’s not right,” he said.
The Hawaii Innocence Project is leading the move to re-open the murder case of Dana Ireland.
Were the right people convicted?
And could there be another person involved who was never arrested?
The Hawaii Innocence Project is looking into the case and those are the questions they are looking to answer.
“All we know is more on the DNA could give us an indication of who the unidentified person is,” Said Defense Attorney and Hawaii Innocence Project member, Brook Hart.
So what has changed between now and then? “Well the government agreed at the time that the DNA did not match any of the three who were convicted,” said Hart. “Things have changed now so we can identify who’s DNA it is we believe.”
With new DNA evidence a lot could change says defense attorney Brook Hart. He says there is still a lot that has to be researched and investigated, but this is a starting point.
“At the very least there is some other perpetrator out there who has never been identified,” said Hart. “If the Schweitzers didn’t do it and Pauline didn’t do it then it might be important to ask why is this other persons DNA so closely related to the facts of the case?”