Man goes on trial for 1989 murder

Gerald Austin
Gerald Austin

It’s a murder case dating back nearly 25 years ago. Gerald Austin is accused of killing Edith Skinner in the summer of 1989.

Honolulu police classified it as an unattended death. Skinner’s apartment at an elderly housing facility didn’t look disturbed. Skinner was 81 years old.

Still, there was an autopsy conducted.

“That one dark hair stood out to her trained eye. It was obvious that hair did not belong to Edith Skinner,” Deputy Prosecutor Scott Bell said.

That hair and other DNA evidence were collected, but the case eventually went cold.

That forensic evidence would sit for years, but improving technology turned something up in 2011. That’s when prosecutors say science caught up with a killer — a DNA sample linking Austin to the victim.

Austin’s attorney says that doesn’t prove he killed her.

“Truth is stranger than fiction. Gerald Austin did not kill Edith Skinner on July 25, 1989. At best, what the evidence will show you is that there was sexual contact between Gerald Austin and Edith Skinner,” said Eddie Aquino, Austin’s attorney.

Now Austin stands trial for murder.

“That Edith Skinner’s killer had been hiding in plain sight for more than two decades. And that Edith Skinner’s killer sits before you this morning in that white open collared dress shirt,” Bell said.

“One particular question will not be answered, who killed Edith Skinner? Because what the evidence will show is that man did not kill Edith Skinner,” Aquino said.

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