Alexandria Duval was acquitted Thursday of charges that she intentionally killed her identical twin sister in 2016 by steering the SUV in which they were riding off a cliff in Hawaii, where it plunged 200 feet before landing in a heap on a rocky outcrop where the churning sea meets the shore of West Maui.
A judge in the widely watched trial said the critical evidence raising doubt that the crash was intentional was the clump of Alexandria's blond hair clutched in the hands of her dead sister, Anastasia. "The deceased pulled her sister's hair so hard that she could yank it out of her scalp," said Judge Peter Cahill.
That suggested that a brutal fight between the two women as they drove caused Alexandria to lose control of the Ford Explorer, which then swerved sharply and plunged off the narrow Hana Highway. Anastasia was pronounced dead at the scene. Alexandria was rushed to the hospital badly hurt but survived. At the time, they were 37 years old.
Prosecutors presented evidence showing that the two had indeed by struggling with one another.
But they contended that tire marks and information from a data recorder on the vehicle showed that Alexandria accelerated and made a "hard left turn" without applying the brakes. That showed she purposely steered the Explorer off the road and down the cliff in an apparent murder-suicide, they said.
The unusual circumstances of the crash, and of the defendant twins, made the case an object of national attention, as did the stories about the relationship between the two yoga instructors.
Before they were Anastasia and Alexandria Duval, they were Alison and Ann Dadow, as The Post's Travis Andrews reported in 2016. Originally from Utica, New York, the sisters were successful yoga entrepreneurs in West Palm Beach, Florida, who drove identical Porches before they relocated to Hawaii.
They were written up in Florida tabloids as the "terrible twins of yoga," who shut down their yoga business and left the area in 2014 without paying their employees or reimbursing customers. Before moving to Hawaii, a few months before the crash, they had attempted to open yoga studios in Utah, said Florida's Gossip Extra, but wound up filing for bankruptcy.
As close as they were in some ways, they nevertheless were known to engage in hair-pulling fights.Keith Weiss, Anastasia's former boyfriend recounted to ABC News an instance in which he had to "pull them off each other" as they pulled each other's hair. "They're knocking each other down the ground."
Another brawl between the sisters occurred in his car, he said, when Anastasia, after drinking, tried force his car off the road. "She turned over her left leg and kicked my right hand at first on the steering wheel," he said. "I swerved into the left lane and luckily there was nobody there."
Still, he said, it was his impression that "they cared about each other more than anything else."
According to witness Chad Smith, the sisters were indeed arguing when he saw them speed by on the Hana Highway, a narrow ribbon of tropical beauty abutting the lush coast of Maui. While it's 65 miles long, it takes at least two and a half hours to drive without stopping, across dozens of narrow one-lane bridges, where cars must yield to oncoming traffic or slow to 10 mph around curves where the road meets the cliffs that drop hundreds of feet to the Pacific.
Smith, according to Hawaii News Now, testified that he was forced to swerve out of their way.
"I could see a pair of arms from elbows to hands yanking the head of the driver. The driver's head was being pulled to the side," said another witness, Lawrence Lau.
Defense lawyers portrayed the crash as a tragic accident. "The tire marks show the car not taking a sudden left turn," said attorney Birney Bervar. That's "certainly a reasonable doubt that there was any criminal behavior whatsoever and my client is not guilty."
The judge, presiding after Alexandria waived a jury trial, shared that view.
"It's been an extremely emotional ordeal for her," said lawyer Bervar after the decision. "You can't imagine losing your twin sister in that kind of catastrophic, tragic accident, then being charged with causing the death of your sister, which she didn't.
"She's extremely relieved."