Published January 08, 2015
A Hawaii man is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole after his conviction last week of raping and fatally strangling an 81-year-old woman in 1989 at a Honolulu senior citizens complex.
Hawaii News Now reports a jury found Gerald Austin, 52, guilty of second-degree murder in the violent death of Edith Skinner in 1989 – some eight years after police reopened a cold case in 2006 on the strength of recent advances in DNA technology.
Even then, it wasn’t until 2011 that the FBI reportedly matched a swab taken from Skinner to Austin’s DNA. Hawaii News Now writes Austin, who has eight convictions on his record, including two felonies, was registered in the FBI database, allowing the G-men to make the genetic match.
"An extended term of imprisonment, namely life imprisonment, is necessary for the protection of the public," Scott Bell, deputy prosecuting attorney, reportedly said after the verdict. "The prosecution is requesting that the court sentence Mr. Austin to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole."
Upon his arrest two years ago, Austin reportedly denied knowing Skinner or being in her apartment, despite his grandmother having once lived in the same senior complex as the victim.
However, Austin later claimed at trial that he and Skinner had consensual sex.
"The defense had to come up with an explanation for the presence of the defendant's semen in the victim,” Bell reportedly said.
“He had already lied to the police about having any contact with or, obviously, sexual relations with the victim.
“So at the time of trial he had to come up with a narrative to explain why his biological material was there. From my perspective, it was completely expected, but nonetheless completely reprehensible, what it suggested: that an 81-year-old woman wanted to have a sexual encounter with a 29-year-old stranger.”
HNN reports Austin is due to return to court in March for an extended term sentencing hearing rooted in the age of the victim at the time the crime occurred.