Samoan Author Charged With Murder Of Former Hawaii Congresswoman's Aunt

 June 1, 2024

A shocking incident in Samoa has led to the arrest of Papalii Sia Figiel, a well-known author, for the murder of Caroline Sinaviana-Gabbard.

Papalii Sia Figiel, 57, has been charged with the murder of her close friend and mentor, Caroline Sinaviana-Gabbard, who was also the aunt of former Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

Fox News reported that the violence erupted at Figiel's residence in Vaivase-Uta, Samoa. Caroline Sinaviana-Gabbard, aged 78, suffered multiple stab wounds and blunt force trauma inflicted with a hammer. The incident reportedly followed an intense argument between the two women, who shared a deep personal and professional bond.

An Illustrious Career Cut Tragically Short

Caroline Sinaviana-Gabbard was highly respected in academia and beyond. A retired University of Hawaii professor, she was renowned as the first Samoan to achieve full professorship in the U.S. Her educational background was impressive, with degrees from Sonoma State University, UC Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii.

She dedicated over two decades to teaching Pacific literature, influencing countless students and academic peers throughout her career. Her sudden, violent death has sent ripples of sorrow through the communities she touched.

Papalii Sia Figiel, the accused, is a celebrated Samoan author and playwright, making her alleged involvement in the murder even more shocking. She and Sinaviana-Gabbard had worked closely together, with the victim serving as a mentor to Figiel in both writing and academia.

A Personal Reflection from a Grieving Brother

Mike Gabbard, brother of the victim, shared his profound grief and affection for his sister in a heartfelt tribute:

Caroline was more than a sibling to me; she was my mentor and confidant during my formative years. Her passion for literature not only shaped her career but also deeply influenced my own life and career path.

The loss of Caroline Sinaviana-Gabbard has left her family, friends, and colleagues mourning a life that was influential and deeply interconnected with the cultural and academic fabric of Samoa and Hawaii.

Her brother, Mike Gabbard, expressed his sorrow and forgiveness in a statement that reflects the complex emotions surrounding this case.

"I forgive the person responsible for her death," Mike Gabbard stated, voicing his desire for justice while also offering forgiveness. He emphasized the need for accountability, hoping that "the person will be punished to the full extent of the law."

The Samoan Police are actively investigating the circumstances that led to the altercation between the two women. Commissioner Auapaau Logoitino Filipo explained that the situation escalated from a verbal argument to physical violence.


Papalii Sia Figiel, a renowned Samoan author, has been charged with the murder of Caroline Sinaviana-Gabbard, a retired University of Hawaii professor and Figiel's mentor, following a dispute at Figiel's home in Samoa. The incident, which involved multiple stab wounds and blunt force trauma, has shocked the academic and literary communities, highlighting the deep personal and professional connection between the two women.

As the legal proceedings against Papalii Sia Figiel continue, many are left trying to reconcile the violent end of Caroline Sinaviana-Gabbard with the vibrant and enriching life she led. Her contributions to academia and her influence on those around her will not be forgotten, even as questions about the motivations and events leading to her tragic death remain unanswered.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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