Mayapple McCullough, Big Island victims' advocate, dies at 62
By John Burnett
HILO — An advocate for crime victims who herself became a crime victim has died on the Mainland.
Mayapple McCullough, formerly of Hilo and Pahoa, who helped to found the group Citizens for Justice, died June 27 in Little Rock, Ark. She was 62. The cause of death was not disclosed.
McCullough, who was born in Little Rock, became well known on the Big Island during the 1990s as a vocal critic of the Police Department and for her efforts to bring killers to justice in at least two high-profile murder cases.
"She was very vocal in her advocacy for victims, especially in the Yvonne Mathison case," said county prosecutor Jay Kimura. "She represented the victims the best she could in trying to get more services for victims.
"I'm very sorry about her passing; my thoughts are with her family."
Mathison, who was a hostess at Ken's House of Pancakes, was killed Nov. 27, 1992, after she was bludgeoned with a lead pipe and struck with a van. Mathison's husband, Kenneth, a police sergeant, was convicted of murdering his wife to collect an insurance policy worth over a half-million dollars. He was sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison with the possibility of parole.
McCullough and Citizens for Justice alleged police were covering up Kenneth Mathison's crime, which was originally classified as a traffic accident. It took three years for the case to go to trial.
"I remember talking with her and other people who were with her," Kimura said. "Kurt Spohn, who was with the office at that time, was handling that particular case. You can only say so much; all criminal investigations are confidential. We could only tell them in general terms what was happening. My request to Bob Marks, who was Hawaii's attorney general at the time, was that it wouldn't hurt to have Kurt continue on the case — and as a deputy attorney general, he was able to continue the prosecution in that case."
McCullough praised the work of Spohn, who has since retired, after Kenneth Mathison's conviction.
McCullough and Citizens for Justice were also instrumental in helping to keep the Christmas Eve 1991 murder of Dana Ireland in the media and before the public until the case was resolved.
It took nearly a decade to convict Frank Pauline Jr., Albert Ian Schweitzer and Shawn Schweitzer for the killing of Ireland, a 23-year-old college graduate from Virginia who was run over by a car, raped and beaten with a tire iron in the Waa Waa area of lower Puna.
Pauline was sentenced to a minimum of 180 years in prison. Albert Ian Schweitzer was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, followed by two consecutive 20 year terms. Shawn Schweitzer, who was a minor when the crime occurred, cut a plea deal to testify for the prosecution and was sentenced to probation.
Ireland's mother, Louise Ireland, expressed shock when told of McCullough's passing.
"She helped us a lot in Dana's case and gave us a lot of sympathy. She was just real nice," Louise Ireland said.
McCullough herself became a victim on Dec. 19, 2000, when her Waa Waa home, near the Ireland murder scene, was burglarized and McCullough was sexually assaulted. Claude K. Krause was convicted in 2001 of that rape and burglary, as well as a previous burglary of McCullough's home.
McCullough filed suit against Krause in Hilo Circuit Court in 2002, and on Oct. 28, 2003, was awarded $350,000. Krause was serving a 10-year prison sentence in Arizona at the time for those crimes and others.
McCullough was also one of more than 120 petitioners in an unsuccessful 1999 lawsuit filed by marijuana advocate Roger Christie seeking the impeachment of then-Mayor Steve Yamashiro and six County Council members for their alleged failure to review the marijuana eradication program yearly as required by the county charter.
Coco Pierson, a Citizens for Justice member, said that McCullough's ability to inspire people of diverse political views to work together for a common goal was "essential and very helpful to the efforts of Citizens for Justice."
"We did not accomplish all, or even most, of everything we wanted, because we wanted to make reforms with the police department. ... I dare say, without her, this movement wouldn't have succeeded as well as it did," he said.
McCullough is survived by her son, Mark Rushing; sisters, Nancy Clark and Charlotte Penn; brothers, Bruce McCullough, Kent McCullough and John McCullough; and two grandchildren. Services have been held. Memorial donations can be made to Dorcas House at http://www.urmission.org.