Who is Papalii Sia Figiel? Prominent Author Accused of Brutally Stabbing and Beating Tulsi Gabbard's Aunt to Death

Caroline Sinaviana-Gabbard was a retired professor from the University of Hawaii.

A renowned Samoan author and playwright has been charged with the murder of former Hawaii Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard's aunt. Papalii Sia Figiel, 57, was arrested on Sunday, following the death of 78-year-old Caroline Sinaviana-Gabbard in Samoa. Caroline was a retired professor from the University of Hawaii.

Caroline was reportedly stabbed multiple times and beaten with a hammer. The incident occurred on May 25 at Figiel's home in Vaivase-Uta, a village three miles from Apia. Figiel's residence also serves as the local theater, according to the New Zealand Herald. Samoan Police Commissioner Auapaau Logoitino Filipo mentioned that an argument between the two preceded the attack. The cause of the argument remains unclear. Local media described Caroline and Figiel as friends and colleagues, with Caroline also serving as Figiel's mentor.

Tulsi gabbard's aunt killed
Author Papalii Sia Figiel, 57 allegedly stabbed and beaten Caroline Sinaviana-Gabbard to death X

Papalii Sia Figiel, born in Apia, Samoa, completed her education in Samoa, New Zealand, and the United States. She is an acclaimed poet, having won the Polynesian Literary Competition in 1994. Her novel "Where We Once Belonged" received the 1997 Best First Book award in the South East Asia/South Pacific Region of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize.

Figiel's life has been significantly impacted by diabetes. She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2003, and both her parents succumbed to complications from the disease. Figiel has since become an advocate in the Pacific region, sharing her experiences to raise awareness about diabetes.

Caroline Sinaviana-Gabbard was also the sister of Hawaii state Sen. Mike Gabbard. According to her family, she was the first Samoan to become a full professor in the United States and was a well-known writer, teacher, and environmental activist.

In a statement to Spectrum News, Mike Gabbard recalled Caroline as his best friend during his teenage years. "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," he said. "I love her deeply and wish her well as she continues her journey," he added, expressing forgiveness towards her killer but hoping for justice to be served.