A newly released autopsy report shows that George Yutaka Shimabuku, who served more prison time than any other inmate in the Hawaii system, died of pneumonia caused by COVID-19.

Shimabuku, 84, was serving two life sentences without possibility of parole at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona last year when his respiratory problems worsened.

George Shimabuku Department of Public Safety

He was moved to an Arizona hospital and from there to a rehabilitation facility, where he died on Dec. 4, according to the report by the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner.

The state Department of Public Safety announced last week that another Saguaro inmate had died of COVID-19, but did not identify the prisoner.

So far, four Hawaii prisoners at Saguaro who were infected with the coronavirus have died, but the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that COVID-19 was not the cause of death for two of those inmates.

The state is holding nearly 1,000 inmates at Saguaro because there is no room for them in Hawaii correctional facilities.

Shimabuku, who was convicted of killing three men in the 1950s and 1960s, was the longest-serving inmate in the state system when he died. He was imprisoned continuously in state or federal correctional facilities for more than 56 years, from 1964 until last year.

An Important Note

If you consider nonprofit, independent news to be an essential service that helps keep our community informed, please include Civil Beat among your year-end contributions.

And for those who can, consider supporting us with a monthly gift, which helps keep our content free for those who need it most.

This year, we are making it our goal to raise $225,000 in reader support by December 31, to support our news coverage statewide and throughout the Pacific. Are you ready to help us continue this work?

About the Author