ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Inmate Frank Pauline Jr. never made headlines in New Mexico, his bludgeoning death last month in a Las Cruces prison garnering little local attention.
Few in New Mexico knew his name or his crime or why he would meet such a violent fate – his brother says he was bludgeoned with a rock – in the recreation yard of the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in broad daylight.
Few in New Mexico cared.
But thousands of miles away in Hawaii, his death was big news. Pauline, 42, had been one of three men convicted in the 1991 Christmas Eve rape and murder of a young woman – a crime the Hawaii Tribune-Herald called “perhaps the most notorious murder case in Big Island history.”
Dana Ireland, 23, was struck by a vehicle while riding her sister’s bicycle, her bleeding and broken body taken to a remote location where she was raped, beaten, tossed into a scabby patch of rock and ragged naupaka shrubs and left to die.
News of Pauline’s death – which occurred April 27, his birthday – hadn’t been the first time that week that his name had resurfaced in the Hawaiian media.
One day before he was killed, the Tribune-Herald reported that the Hawaii Innocence Project was delving into whether enough DNA evidence existed to pursue the reopening of the Ireland case due to new technology.
The same newspaper article also reported that Judges for Justice, a Seattle-based group that worked to overturn Amanda Knox’s high-profile murder conviction in Italy, had called for an official review of the Ireland case, saying that evidence points to another attacker and not Pauline or the two co-defendants.
John Gonsalves, Pauline’s brother, told Honolulu TV station KHON that he had spoken to Pauline moments before the attack to wish him a happy birthday. Pauline, he said, was in good spirits.
“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,” Gonsalves said.
In a subsequent interview with KHON that aired Friday, Gonsalves said he believes his brother’s death was a hit.
“If you ask me, the way everything’s adding up, I truly believe in my heart that my brother got a hit on him,” Gonsalves told the TV station. “From who, I don’t know, but stuff like that don’t happen.”
Inmate Daniel Hood, 34, has been charged with first-degree murder and possession of a deadly weapon by a prisoner after confessing that he killed Pauline “because he thought Pauline was a snitch and he walked around like he owned the place,” New Mexico State Police said Tuesday.
Hood has been in the New Mexico prison system under an interstate compact since 2002, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alex Tomlin said. He was 15 when he was accused and later convicted of fatally shooting and killing an 81-year-old woman and her neighbor in 1996 in New London, Minn., according to news accounts.
It is not known whether the weapon used to kill Pauline was a rock, as Gonsalves said he had been told. Nor is it known whether Pauline’s slaying had anything to do with the recent news back in Hawaii.
The attack occurred in an area of the prison yard described as “very remote,” according to the State Police news release.
Pauline also was transferred to the New Mexico prison under an interstate compact in December 2012 to serve out his 180-year sentence, Tomlin said.
According to court documents and news accounts from Hawaii, Pauline had feared death threats from other inmates in Hawaiian prisons and had been moved several times within the Hawaiian prison system after confessing to investigators in 1994 and bragging to the media about his role in the Ireland case (he pointed the finger at the other two defendants as the real culprits and said he had mostly just gone along for the ride in a cocaine haze), then later recanting his confession. Pauline had also accused prison guards in Hawaii of beating and sexually assaulting him, an allegation prison officials could not substantiate.
Besides Pauline, co-defendant Albert Ian Schweitzer was convicted of Ireland’s rape and murder in a separate trial and was sentenced to 130 years. He is serving his sentence in Arizona.
His younger brother, Shawn Schweitzer, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to a year behind bars and five years of probation.
News reports at the time of that trial said the DNA found on Ireland and her clothes did not match that of Pauline or the Schweitzer brothers. Brook Hart, a Honolulu defense attorney with the Hawaii Innocence Project, said in a telephone interview that new DNA technology may provide new evidence.
“The important question is, whose DNA is it?” he said. “If we’re able to identify whose DNA it is, we may well be moving toward identifying who really was involved in that terrible crime.”
Hart called Pauline’s death suspicious and a “remarkable coincidence.”
“Pauline was a potential witness in this case and an important one,” he said. “Just how much is unknown yet, but we are concerned.”
Hart said it is too soon to know whether what the Innocence Project uncovers will shed new information regarding the Ireland case.
But because of what happened in New Mexico, any news on that will come too late for Pauline.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.