Man found guilty of killing 81-year-old woman in 1989

Man found guilty of killing 81-year-old woman in 1989
Published: Feb. 5, 2014 at 7:06 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 5, 2014 at 11:53 PM HST
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Gerald Austin
Gerald Austin
Edith Skinner
Edith Skinner

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A jury has found Gerald Austin guilty for the 1989 murder of an 81-year-old woman in Honolulu.

52-year-old Austin is convicted of raping and strangling Edith Skinner in her Kalakaua Avenue apartment -- a senior citizens housing complex where Austin's grandmother also lived at the time.

The cold case was untouched for 17 years until police reopened it in 2006 after matching DNA found at the scene to Austin -- who has eight convictions on his record including two felonies.

"On behalf of the Prosecutor's Office, I'm tremendously pleased and satisfied with the verdict.  From my perspective, based on the evidence that was presented during trial, I was confident this was the only right decision that could be reached," said Scott Bell, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, following the jurors' decision.

"The prosecution is requesting that the court sentence Mr. Austin to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole," Bell said.

Jurors found Austin was aware Skinner was over the age of 60, a condition which officials say makes him subject to enhanced sentencing.

"An extended term of imprisonment, namely life imprisonment, is necessary for the protection of the public," Bell said.

Deputy public defender Edward Aquino declined to comment following the verdict.

Skinner's death was initially classified as unattended. Back then, Honolulu Police had no DNA lab and no suspects. But in 2011, the FBI found a swab from Skinner matched Austin's DNA. His sample was in the database for another case, and police arrested him in January 2012.

When he was arrested Austin denied knowing Skinner or going into her apartment.  During trial he later claimed, 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. 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," Bell said.

Austin will remain in custody until he's due back in court in March for an extended term sentencing hearing.

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