The shocking true story of the murder of 23–year–old Dana Ireland and the nine–year investigation that became Hawaii's most publicised murder case.
By all accounts, 23–year–old Dana Ireland would have been successful at whatever she chose to do with her life. But she didn't get that chance. On Christmas Eve, 1991, this blonde–haired, blue–eyed young woman set off on her bicycle. As she was riding back to the holiday meal, three local youths decided to celebrate Christmas in a different way. They followed her in their car, then rammed her bike, kidnapped, raped, and beat her, and left her for dead on an isolated spot overlooking the ocean. In a community where many residents left their doors unlocked, people were shocked and terrified by this random, brutal act of violence. Worse still was that if the authorities hadn't taken so long to get to the victim, she might have lived. As months and years went by, frustration turned to outrage when police failed to arrest anyone for Dana's murder. But from his home in Springfield, Virginia, John Ireland started his own dogged investigation and crusade for justice. And nine years after his daughter's murder, after one of the most complicated cases the state had ever seen, three men were convicted. Here is a dramatic true story.
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About the Author
Chris Loos is an award-winning crime reporter for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, who has covered the Dana Ireland case since its beginning.
Rick Castberg is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and an internationally recognized expert on legal issues.
Read an Excerpt
Ida Smith called her small wooden house a fishing shack. It was anything but fancy. The windows were screened but had no glass, which was not unusual for this part of Hawaii. What distinguished this house from others in the area was the stunning ocean view across the dirt road in front. As she watched the waves, Ida began preparing dinner. It was Christmas Eve and she was in high spirits.
Ida's neighborhood, Waa Waa, is one of many sparsely populated subdivisions in Puna, a district of the Big Island as different from Waikiki Beach as the Adirondacks are from Manhattan. The absence of basic services -- telephones, electricity, even county-supplied water -- enhances the tranquility that draws people to Puna from the U.S. mainland, not as tourists but as residents.
The water flowing from Ida's kitchen faucet came from rainwater diverted from her roof to a backyard reservoir and then pumped into the house. The rainfall at Hilo airport this year, at 151 inches, was more than 23 inches above average. The National Weather Service had predicted showers, but they had never materialized.
Over the hum of the pump, Ida heard something she thought was a truck gunning its engine. Perhaps the driver was trying to maneuver out of the gravel fishing trail across the way. Vehicles without four-wheel drive often got stuck there.
Ida was a large woman, 56 years old. She busied herself in the kitchen for another five or ten minutes before a high-pitched noise attracted her attention. At first she hardly noticed it over the crashing surf. It sounded like the call of the hawks that soar above Puna's ohia forests. On second thought, it was more like the screaming of children at play. Maybe the part-time neighbors in the house next door were having a Christmas party. She put down her vegetables and listened. It was about 4:45.
"Help me," a faint voice said. It sounded like a little girl.
Venturing outside, Ida walked the 100 feet or so to the end of her cinder driveway and then turned right and headed for the house next door. It looked deserted.
"Help me." The voice definitely wasn't coming from the neighbor's house.
"Where are you? Keep calling. I'm coming," Ida called back. Maybe someone had an accident on the fishing trail, she thought.
"Help me. Help me. I'm over here."
Ida picked up her pace and walked to the top of the rock trail, about 100 yards from her property. The trail led to a popular fishing spot, a secluded lava-rock cliff that overlooked the ocean.
Ida heard sobbing. She scanned the length of the 100-foot trail, but saw no one. "I'm coming. I'm coming," she said, puzzled. She followed the sobs along the trail, peering into the jungle of dense, prickly shrubs that grew alongside it.
About halfway down Ida stopped dead in her tracks and gasped. Off to the right, a battered young woman lay on her back in the bushes like a discarded piece of rubbish. Her head faced the ocean and her body was partially covered with branches and shrubbery. Ida moved closer. What she saw made her shudder. The woman's long hair was so soaked in blood that Ida could hardly tell it was blond. The woman's left shoe was missing, her denim shorts were pulled down below her knees, and her halter top was pushed up to her neck, exposing a lean, light-skinned torso covered with bruises and scratches. Her right arm had a deep cut. A large, U-shaped gash on her head exposed part of her skull. Blood flowed from between her legs and her left breast had teeth marks around the nipple.
Ida's heart raced. Her palms were clammy and she was breathing hard. "Oh, my God. Who did this to you?" she asked.
The shivering woman muttered something through torn lips. "Help me up," she begged, extending her hand toward Ida.
Hoping to take the woman to her house so she could drive her to the hospital, Ida grasped her hand. The woman shrieked with pain. Ida backed off. The blood was attracting flies.
"Do you know where you are?" Ida asked the bloody woman.
"No, sir," she said, clearly confused, and then muttered something else.
"Help me take 'em off," she said, pointing to the shorts binding her ankles.
Ida carefully removed the shorts and the lone athletic shoe, trying not to touch the legs that were scraped raw as if they'd been dragged on a rough surface. She placed the shoes and shorts on the trail two feet away from where the young woman lay. The woman began screaming and flailing her arms.
Ida took a deep breath and tried to figure out how to get help.
"I'll be right back," she said. "I need to run up to my house to get a blanket. I'll be right back."
"No!" the woman screamed. "Stay."
"Okay," Ida said. She gingerly took the woman's hand. "Let's pray."
Ida recited a special prayer she reserved for dire emergencies. After a few minutes, the woman stopped screaming.
"What's your name?" Ida asked.
"Don't worry, Dana," Ida said. "Everything's going to be all right."
She ran home for a sheet and a quilt, since she had no medical supplies at home and knew it was unwise for a bystander to move an injured person without medical help available. Her house had no telephone so she had no way to call for help; the houses were few and far between in this remote neighborhood, a hodgepodge of shacks and designer homes occupied by people who shared a common love for the isolation of the jungle. She rushed back to the trail and spread the bedding over Dana ...Murder in Paradise. Copyright © by Chris Loos. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.