Gory findings emerge on day three of Tulaga trial

About the author:

Tina Mata'afa-Tufele is a Pasifika journalist that has been writing and covering news related to the Samoan experience for over a decade. She's written for Samoa News in American Samoa, Tuatalatala.com (covering news from Hawaii, the U.S.

  • File photo of the ambulance rushing the victim to the airport to be flown to NZ for specialised facial surgery
    File photo of the ambulance rushing the victim to the airport to be flown to NZ for specialised facial surgery

Gory details from the police search in the bedroom where Ms. Frysna Rimoni was allegedly shot in the face, emerged Thursday when officers testified in the attempted murder trial of Peter Tulaga.

Pieces of human flesh, teeth, bone fragments, blood-stained sheets, curtains and clothing were found during a three-day investigation at the crime scene, a home in Vailoa belonging to Tulaga's mother.

Constable Soliali’i F of the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) said he was one of the investigating officers at the crime scene on the day of the alleged shooting, on the evening of 15 January, 2019.

The 29-year officer described the Vailoa home as a fale Samoa in the front with an extension (faase’e) in the back where the bedroom is located.

 Tulaga's preacher brother Petelo Tulaga showed him where the incident took place.

"When I entered the fale Samoa, I saw a black trash bag but I didn't pay attention to it because I was following Peter's (the defendant) brother to the place where the incident happened, inside the extension," the constable said.

He observed bullets strewn about the bedroom floor and underneath the bed. After the bedroom was photographed, Soliali’i  collected and counted 11 bullets he placed in a plastic bag.

"There were 11 unused bullets underneath the bed. I don't know, there might have been other bullets found but under the bed there were 11 because I counted them," he said.

After collecting bullets, Soliali’i went back to the fale Samoa and questioned Petelo about the black trash bag.

"I asked 'what's in this bag?' I was told they were things that were cleaned up from the bedroom by Melania (Tulaga's sister) and her daughters," the constable said.

"I opened the trash bag and saw clothes and a pillow with blood on them. There were pieces of flesh and cracked bones inside the bag. I was told Melania and her daughters cleaned up and put these things inside the bag. I saw pieces of human flesh, bones and teeth inside this bag."

The trash bag was taken to the police station and its contents inspected. Because a stench was coming from the trash bag, police took it to a well-ventilated area at the station.

A tarpaulin was spread out onto the floor and the items were removed from the trash bag and placed onto the tarp, Soliali’i said.

" There were clothes, sheets, lace material, I think they were curtains and old clothes that were probably used to wipe up the blood. There were also pieces of human flesh, cracked bones and teeth."  

On the following day, Soliali’i returned to the scene and located the shotgun that was allegedly used to shoot the victim Rimoni.

"I was the first to handle the firearm," the court heard.

"When I asked Melania about the gun, she showed us where the gun was found. “She said she took the gun and hid it under a mattress in the other house.”

Melania showed police to an area outside the fale Samoa, about 5-6 meters from the entrance. The constable asked Melania how the gun got outside and her reply was: "I think Peter threw it outside."

"When I opened the gun, there was a casing still inside the gun, a 12 gauge single shot shotgun. We call this gun a 'sefululua.' Only one bullet is used in this gun."

Afterward, Soliali'i said he went to the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital at Moto’otua to see the victim in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

"I could not see her injuries because her entire face and head were wrapped in white bandages."

On the third day of investigation, 17 January, Soliali'i returned to the Vailoa location to "reconstruct the crime," he told the court.

A search of the home was conducted and more bullets were found in the bedroom and another tooth.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Faualo Tauiliili Harry Schuster pointed to police photographs of the bedroom and Soliali’i if the blood-stained mattresses were taken to the police station. He said due to the impact of the bullet, the mattresses should have been torn apart.

"I don't think this is the mattress or the sheets because they cleaned up the crime scene," Soliali’i said.

Faualo asked the constable several times if the police photos are "fake."

"No, the photos are from our investigation," he replied.

A number of police officers, including the investigating officer, a ballistics expert and a Blue Sky employee who deals with phone and text message records, testified yesterday.

More prosecution witnesses will testify today.

Peter is facing four charges: one count of attempted murder, one count of being armed with a dangerous weapon, one count of possession of an unlicensed firearm and one count of causing grievous bodily harm.

Prosecutors say Peter and Rimoni were in a relationship when he shot her after a spat over suspicion of dishonesty.

 

The defendant maintains he is innocent.

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