Big Island police chief, county prosecutor committed to finding ‘Unknown Male No. 1’ in Dana Ireland case
Two days after a Big Island man was exonerated in the decades-long Dana Ireland murder case thanks in part to new DNA evidence, the island’s top cop and lead prosecutor are reaffirming their commitment to bringing those responsible for the December 1991 rape and murder of the 23-year-old Virginia resident in a remote section of Puna.
“Since Dana Ireland was brutally raped and murdered on Christmas Eve 1991, the Hawai’i Police Department has been dedicated to bringing her attackers to justice,” Hawai‘i Police Department Chief Benjamin Moszkowicz said in a statement issued late Thursday afternoon.
Albert “Ian” Schweitzer spent more than two decades in prison after being convicted in 2000 for Ireland’s kidnapping, rape and murder. His conviction was overturned Jan. 24 by Hilo Circuit Judge Peter Kubota.
The now 51-year-old is the third Native Hawaiian man to be convicted and later found innocent of the crime.
New DNA evidence excluded Schweitzer from the scene of Ireland’s rape and murder. DNA found on key evidence belongs to another individual — called “Unknown Male No. 1.”
“Recently, there has been renewed public interest in the identity of a person dubbed ‘Unknown Male No. 1,’ whose DNA is closely tied to this case,” Moszkowicz said. “It is important the public knows that while we may not have shared it publicly, Hawai‘i Police Department has never stopped trying to identify Unknown Male No. 1 and has used additional DNA testing over the years to exclude numerous potential persons of interest.”
The chief said the Police Department acknowledges and respects the Judiciary and the role the courts have played in the Ireland case, including the original jury and subsequent judges’ decisions.
“That being said, we have always remained steadfast in our search for anyone who might have been involved in this case,” Moszkowicz said. “Over the past two decades, investigators have conducted dozens of interviews and followed up on hundreds more tips, which has been helpful in our continuing investigation.”
Hawai‘i Police Department, along with the Hawai‘i County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, recently allowed a private DNA lab contracted by the Hawai‘i Innocence Project to examine evidence in the case and look forward to receiving a copy of the lab results to help continue the search.
“We entered into a conviction integrity agreement with the Hawai‘i Innocence Project to re-investigate the kidnapping, rape and murder of Dana Ireland,” said Hawai‘i County Prosecuting Attorney Kelden Waltjen in a statement also issued late Thursday afternoon. “Over the last three years, we have shared information and re-examined the forensic evidence given the technological advancements since the 2000 trial.”
Waltjen said his office takes conviction integrity seriously. He appreciates the hard work of the prosecutors, police, victim advocates and staff who assisted with the post-conviction proceedings and acknowledged the work of the Hawai‘i Innocence Project. He also expressed his appreciation for the organization’s professionalism throughout those proceedings.
“Our office remains committed to identifying Unknown Male No. 1 and seeking justice for Dana Ireland and her ‘ohana,” Waltjen said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to them during this difficult time.”
“Moving forward, we will continue to use new technologies to help not only identify Unknown Male No. 1 but to determine what his role may have been in this heinous crime,” Moszkowicz said. “Ultimately, our commitment to bring Dana Ireland’s attackers to justice has not wavered over the past 31 years and we look forward to working with whomever might be able to help us close this case.”
Anyone with any information that can assist law enforcement with the Ireland case is asked to contact the Hawai‘i County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney at 808-961-0466.