Writer Charged with Murder of Prominent Samoan Author and Poetry Professor, Shocking Family and Literary Community

Apia, Samoa – A prominent Samoan author, Papalii Sia Figiel, 57, has been charged with the murder of Caroline Sinavaiana-Gabbard, 78, a well-known Samoan writer and environmentalist. The tragic incident occurred after an argument between the two women at Figiel’s home, which also serves as a local theater in the community.

Sinavaiana-Gabbard, who was the aunt of former U.S. congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, was a distinguished poet and the first person of Samoan descent to achieve the rank of full professor at a U.S. university. She had a stellar career at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she taught from 1997 until her retirement in 2016.

According to Samoa’s deputy police commissioner Papalii Monalisa Tiai-Keti, Figiel and Sinavaiana-Gabbard had been close friends for 30 years. Tragically, an argument between the two women turned fatal, leading to Sinavaiana-Gabbard’s death.

Two days after the incident, Sinavaiana-Gabbard’s body was discovered at Figiel’s residence in Apia, the capital of Samoa. Figiel promptly reported the death to the authorities, accompanied by a family member whom she confided in about the incident.

Initially arrested on manslaughter charges, Figiel is now facing a murder charge following the discovery of incriminating evidence by the police. A forensic pathologist from Fiji is scheduled to conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of Sinavaiana-Gabbard’s death later this month.

The shocking news of Sinavaiana-Gabbard’s untimely passing has deeply affected her family, including her niece Tulsi Gabbard, who described the tragedy as “horrific” in a social media post. Tulsi recalled her aunt’s influence on her writing and the encouragement she received from Sinavaiana-Gabbard during her childhood.

Mike Gabbard, Sinavaiana-Gabbard’s brother and a Democratic state senator from Hawaii, reminisced about his sister’s positive influence on his life. He attributed his career path as a teacher in American Samoa to his sister’s inspiration and guidance.

Professor John David Zuern from the University of Hawaii praised Sinavaiana-Gabbard’s contributions to the Department of English and highlighted her dedication to Pacific literature. Her exceptional work with students earned her recognition and acclaim within the university community.

The Pacific literary community mourns the loss of Caroline Sinavaiana-Gabbard, a talented writer and educator whose legacy will undoubtedly endure through her impactful work and lasting influence on those she touched.