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Tulsi Gabbard’s Aunt Found Dead, Samoan Author Arrested as Suspect

James King, MPA
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Papalii Sia Figiel, a 57-year-old award-winning Samoan playwright and author, has been arrested in connection with the death of Caroline Sinaviana-Gabbard, the 78-year-old aunt of former Hawaii Democrat Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Sinaviana-Gabbard, a retired University of Hawaii professor, was found dead at Figiel’s home in the village of Vaivase-Uta, Samoa, on May 25th.

Police reports indicate that Sinaviana-Gabbard had been beaten with a hammer and sustained multiple stab wounds. Samoan Police Commissioner Auapaau Logoitino Filipo stated that the two women had engaged in an argument before the situation turned violent, although the reason for the dispute remains unknown.

Sinaviana-Gabbard, known for being the first Samoan to hold a full professorship in the United States, was Figiel’s mentor, and the two were reportedly friends and colleagues. Figiel’s residence, which also functioned as the local movie theater, was the scene of the tragic incident.


The Gabbard family remembers Sinaviana-Gabbard as a gifted writer, educator, and environmental activist. Her brother, Hawaii State Senator Mike Gabbard, shared fond memories of their close relationship, particularly during his teenage years, and credited his sister with inspiring his own academic and professional pursuits.

While expressing forgiveness for the individual responsible for his sister’s death, Mike Gabbard also emphasized his desire for justice and his hope that the perpetrator would be punished to the fullest extent of the law.