Acquital in the Trial of Accused Murderers of PCV Kate Puzey

Peace Corps has issued the following statement:

“The trial in the matter of the 2009 homicide of Peace Corps volunteer Kate Puzey concluded in Benin on February 25, 2017.

“Along with her family and friends, we continue to mourn the loss of Kate and we offer them our deepest sympathies during this difficult time. Today and every day, we honor Kate, whose memory is never far from our minds as we continue to build a stronger, more effective Peace Corps. We remain steadfast in our commitment to a Peace Corps that is worthy of Kate’s legacy.

The Peace Corps and the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General appreciate the support of the State Department, Justice Department, FBI and the Government of Benin. “https://www.peacecorps.gov/news/library/peace-corps-statement-conclusion-trial-2009-“homicide-peace-corps-benin-volunteer-kate-puzey/

The official statement makes no mention on the outcome. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports there was an acquittal in the conclusion of the trial.  Read the article at :

http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2017/02/28/accused-killers-of-peace-corps-volunteer-from-georgia-acquitted/    Here is the text of that article:

Accused killers of Peace Corps volunteer from Georgia acquitted

Greg Bluestein, Tamar Hallerman,  Jim Galloway

“Fresh out of surgery and recovering at home this weekend, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson may have suffered one of the most disappointing setbacks of his career. More than 5,000 miles away, in the west African country of Benin, the four men accused in the 2009 murder of 24-year-old Peace Corps volunteer Kate Puzey of Georgia were acquitted on Saturday and set free.

“The trial lasted two full days. In the end, they were all let go,” said Isakson, still slightly hoarse from the after-effects of his four-day hospital stay last week.

Because the trial coincided with his surgery, Isakson was unable to make it to the court house. In his stead went U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma. Puzey’s mother, Lois, and brother, David, bore witness as well. The case has been largely forgotten — I haven’t found a single international wire report on the verdict. The Peace Corps has issued a terse statement acknowledging the outcome.

Kate Puzey, who graduated from high school in Cumming, was an English instructor in a Benin village when, on Feb. 9, 2009, she sent an email to the country’s Peace Corps director. She reported that Constant Bio, who taught at Kate’s school and was regularly hired to put together to Peace Corps training sessions, was molesting local girls.

Word at headquarters leaked out. Jacques Bio, brother of Constant Bio, was an associate director for Peace Corps Benin.

One month later, Puzey was found dead on her front porch. Her throat had been slit.

The Bio brothers and two others were arrested. Isakson attended Puzey’s funeral, uninvited – and would spend the next seven years pushing Benin authorities to put Puzey’s accused killers on trial. He made three trips to Benin. He delivered a letter from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the country’s president. He visited the minister of justice. The FBI was made available.

In the meantime, Isakson developed a close relationship with Kate’s parents – to the point that Lois Puzey was featured in a 2016 campaign ad for Isakson. (Harry Puzey, Kate’s father, has since died of cancer.)

In our interview, Isakson noted that Benin’s legal system has its origins in the French, or Napoleonic system. Criminal trials are bench trials. There is no jury.

“I believe in the rule of law. We just didn’t have the influence to get the information that we needed to be heard before the court,” Isakson said.

Despite the outcome, the senator said he hoped the trial provided some closure for the Puzey family. In 2011, Isakson sponsored Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The measure increased protections for Peace Corps volunteers who are victims of violence, including sexual assault.

“I feel some self-satisfaction about that even if the verdict didn’t go our way,” Isakson said.

The senator, by the way, said his surgery – to fuse two discs in his lower back – was a success and that he intends to be back in Washington next Monday.”

 

Thank you to RPCV Bruce McDonald for this information and link to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Bruce and his wife, Stormy, served in Bulgaria 2002 – 2004. He is the author of their Peace Corps memoir “A Breeze in Bulgaria” reviewed here:http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/review-16/

 

“Murder In Benin: Kate Puzey’s Death in the Peace Corps”

by Aaron Kase (Burkina Faso 2006-08) is an excellent account  this tragedy.

http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/review-1http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/winner-of-the-2015-publishers-special-award-murder-in-benin/6/

 

9 Comments

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  • Yes, the verdict is outrageous. But, come on, the suggestion that single women should lonely be assigned in pairs is silly and so, well 20th century when we did not want women in the military, in positions of authority, indeed, running agencies like Peace Corps. PCVs need safe assignments and attention paid to them when there are problems. But women can handle tough assignments as well as men. Having a roomate is not going to save a PCV, male or female, from a killer.

  • Barry, as I am sure you know, Peace Corps was an early promoter of giving women equal opportunities. One of the reason I applied was that women were to be treated equally with men. However, female Peace Corps Volunteers are in an unique postion. They are not armed or surrounded by military “buddies.” . When I served, we females were initially assigned in pairs because we were going into the rural areas and the norm was for women not to live alone. Women Volunteers may face all kinds of cultural mores that should be respected if they are to be effective. Today, many if not most Volunteers live their entire tour with host families.

    In my site, my site partner left because her father was was dying. I liked living alone. However, my “isolation” was of considerable concern to the people in my village, and they were glad when another woman Volunteer arrived. The people in my village felt responsible for protecting us. That became a very real problem when the infamous Marxist insurgency began in our area. Gringas were considered a “target” and many feared that our presence would compromise the safety of everyone else.

    Today, the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act dictates that if a Volunteer. male or female, feels unsafe in their site, the Country Director MUSt remove them from that site.

  • Service in the Peace Corps has changed so much since the early 1960s. There were male and female volunteers who lived alone in Ethiopia, some by preference and some by circumstances. Female volunteers told me that they felt safer in Ethiopia than in any American city of former residence. But local mores elsewhere forced women volunteers to adapt to circumstances. While traveling in India in 1968, I met two female volunteers dressed in the clothing of the Punjab region. They said that wearing of western clothing that displayed bared arms and legs was an invitation to attacks from rock throwers. Personal safety is paramount but any efforts to deny females an opportunity to serve should be vigorously challenged.

  • The tragic death of Kate Puzey only reminds me again of FIRST the importance of the venerable Second Goal, to learn and understand. That doesn’t mean to understand only that which supports our own American values. Second, that presumputously exporting our values, like Gloria Steinem style Feminism, is NOT what the Peace Corps is, or should be, about.

    I remember many years ago, an American Feminist crusade to convert The Philippines to Gloria’s theory was met with a torrent of Filippina incredulity” “You must be out of your minds ! ! !” Our job in the Peace Corps was NOT to make the world carbon copies of America. Even the filippinas grasped it. Then, the Prime Minister of Japan, reacting to the export of American TV programs and movies, observed that “America is exporting a culture of violence and personal irresponsibility, and the rest of the world can’t afford it ! ! ” ding-dong ! Nobody in Washington got it.

    I also remember, as long ago as the early 1960s, a West African male language teacher who, right here in the USA, began to demand that female PC applicants put out sex, OR he would vote against their inclusion at the end of training. It created a furor, and the Peace Corps assured all the female trainees that this would NOT be the case. But that’s about as far as it went. Talking to female RPCVs over the years, I concluded that the “horrible male American” depicted by Gloria Steinem, that all the world would of course agree, was not quite as awful as Gloria claimed.

    I have talked with many female RPCVs, and remember also when I was in both West Africa and Central Africa, there were a lot of practical suggestions. Not only suggestions of assigning female volunteers in groups of two or three, but even assigning them in the same villages as MALE volunteers, who would be assumed to be brothers, and therefore understood protectors from sexual aggression. It made sense, to many. Not in America, with Gloria, but there in Africa.

    Best, from Horrible American Male, John Turnbull New Mexico

  • I served in 2009-10, in Jamaica. PST focused on our safety, with the murder rate in JA as high as it was at that time. Women were told not to walk alone after dark. I was in the 50+ group of PCV. Prior to moving into my apt, which was att’d to a home, I requested; bars on the windows as well as screens to be installed. Maybe because I was older, and had travelled to many foreign countries, I was never fearful. The murder of Kate Puzey was not mentioned during our PST. I do believe there was a culture of denial that existed. It appears there have been only small improvements in nearly 10 years. Still thankful that I served, successfully!

  • John Turnbull, please educate yourself before using an innocent woman’s death as an excuse to spout off about evil American feminists crusading abroad.

    Kate Puzey was murdered because she confided in Peace Corps staff about abuse of children in her host community and her allegations were shared with her killer. How did any of this result from America pushing a feminist agenda? Are we to suppose a man in Kate’s position would have been allowed to report the same crimes and remain unharmed? Or perhaps you think there’s something feminist about reporting crimes against children?

    It seems more likely that I’m giving you too much credit. I’m guessing instead that you are ignorant of the facts in this case and simply looking for an opportunity to claim that violence against women in the Peace Corps is the fault of a misguided government that has fallen victim to dangerous feminist doctrine. Are we also to suppose that such violence, and indeed murder, can be avoided by simply observing cultural norms in countries where the Peace Corps operates? I’m afraid you’re mistaken. Please don’t excuse murder as a result of a cultural misunderstanding.

    Here is an actual news article about what happened for anyone who wants the facts so they can form an educated opinion rather than confirmation of their own antiquated bias:
    https://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/parents-slain-volunteer-peace-corps-error-led-murder/story?id=12607274

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