A notable Samoan author and playwright was reportedly charged with murdering the aunt of former Democrat Congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard.

“Caroline Sinavaiana-Gabbard, a historian, environmentalist, and retired Professor from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa was the victim in the alleged murder for which playwright and poet Papalii Sia Figiel is charged,” Samoa Observer reports.

Sinavaiana-Gabbard, 78, was described as a “peaceful and calm person.”

“She was a kindred spirit, a brilliant writer and supporter of writers,” a friend who did not want to be named told the Samoa Observer. 

Per Samoa Observer:

Figiel, 57, was earlier charged with manslaughter on Sunday, however after all details of the horrific incident that led to the gruesome death of a 78-year-old woman emerged, the police upgraded the charge to murder on Monday.

Commissioner Auapaau Logoitino Filipo said after the preliminary investigation the police found incriminating evidence leading to the charge being upgraded.

“A hammer is alleged to have been used as well as a small knife that inflicted multiple stab wounds on the deceased,” said Auapaau.

“We do not know what the motive is of the offending but from reports the incident occurred on Saturday and the suspect left the deceased at her home while she went out to Lotofaga and spent time with a friend.

“It wasn’t until Sunday morning while having breakfast that she told her friend about what she had done and that led to the matter being reported to the Police.

“She came with her friend to the Police Station to report it and when Police went to her home to check they found the deceased’s body there.”

Sinavaiana-Gabbard and Papalii Sia Figiel were “arguing at Figiel’s GaluMoana Theater in Vaivase-Uta when Figiel allegedly stabbed Sinavaiana-Gabbard multiple times and beat her with a hammer,” Spectrum News noted.

Spectrum News reports:

“Caroline was my best friend as a teenager,” said Sen. Mike Gabbard in a statement to Spectrum News. “She helped me considerably during my rebellious stage of adolescence. She got me hooked on reading, so much so that I followed in her footsteps and majored in English at Sonoma State University in California, then returned to our birthplace, American Samoa, where I taught English in the high schools and was a faculty member, guidance counselor and dean at the community college for many years.

“I was very proud of her accomplishments as a writer and poet,” he continued. “I love her deeply and wish her well as she continues her journey. While I sincerely forgive the murderer of this horrific crime, I’m hoping justice will be served, and that person will be punished to the full extent of the law.”

Sinavaiana-Gabbard was born in Utulei, a village in Tutuila in American Samoa and spent part of her childhood in Florida. She earned undergraduate degrees in English and psychology from Sonoma State University, an M.A. in folklore from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D in American studies from the University of Hawaii.

The first scholar of Samoan ancestry to become a full professor at an American university, Sinavaiana-Gabbard taught Pacific literature at the University of Hawaii for over 20 years before retiring.

In 2001, she was awarded the College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature Excellence in Teaching Award.

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