Award Winning Novelist Remains in Police Custody Charged with Murder of American Samoa Woman


28 May 2024 Apia, Samoa.  – A prominent Samoan contemporary novelist, playwright, poet and painter, Papalii Sia Figiel, has been arrested and charged with the brutal murder of a 78-year-old woman.

Police Commissioner Auapaau Logoitino Filipo said the incident happened last Saturday at Papalii’s GaluMoana Theater at Vaivase-uta..

Papalii says preliminary findings is that a hammer is alleged to have been used as well as a small knife that inflicted multiple stab wounds on the deceased.

Papalii allegedly left the deceased at her Vaivase-uta home  and went to a friend’s house at Lotofaga.

“It wasn’t until Sunday morning while they were having breakfast that Papalii told her friend what had happened,” said the Police Commissioner.

Papalii turned herself in at the main Police  headquarters in Apia on Sunday morning. When police visited her home at Vaivase-uta, they discovered the body of the deceased.

Auapaau says the motive is unclear, however it is understood that an argument preceeded the horrific death of 78 year old Dr. Caroline Sinavaiana Gabbard, also a poet, writer and academic from American Samoa.

Papalii is charged with the horrific murder of Dr Caroline Sinavaiana-Gabbard.

Dr. Caroline Sinavaiana-Gabbard was an American Samoan academic, writer, poet, and environmentalist who taught at the University of Hawaii and the American Samoa Community College.

Dr. Caroline was the first Samoan to become a full professor in the United States. She retired a few years ago and moved back to Samoa.

Check these out at SOS Togafuafua and Salelologa.

Sia Figiel’s poetry won the Polynesian Literary Competition in 1994 and her novel Where We Once Belonged won the 1997 Best First Book award in the South East Asia/South Pacific Region of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

Her works have been translated into French, German, Catalan, Danish, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Portuguese.

In 2000 Figiel performed her Oceanic poetry at the University of Hawaii’s 25th annual Pacific Island Studies conference.

The performances of Figiel and Teresia Teaiwa were recorded at this conference and subsequently released in a joint production with Hawai’i Dub Machine records and ‘Elepaio Press. The album is titled Terenesia.

Sia Figiel has also been a contributor to The Contemporary Pacific journal on multiple occasions, including publications in 1998 and 2010.