The Peace Corps Volunteer, Dennis Priven, who murdered PCV Deborah Gardner in Tonga in 1976, and never was charged for her death, has died. The Tonga RPCV community found out that Priven died on April 1, 2023.
Priven was ruled not guilty in the Tonga judicial system, with national Peace Corps intervention, based on an insanity defense. He returned to the U.S. where he was briefly hospitalized but checked himself out. He eventually got a government job and reportedly retired on a government pension.
Recently a 1970s Tonga RPCV Tom Riddle found this obituary:
Dennis Priven, age 70, of Brooklyn, New York passed away on Saturday, April 1, 2023. He was born in Brooklyn on May 28, 1952 to Morris and Dorothy Priven. He graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in mathematics and education. In 1974, Dennis joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to Tonga. While in Tonga, he met Deborah Gardner, another Peace Corps volunteer.
The two began dating, but Gardner ended the relationship after Priven became increasingly possessive and controlling.
On October 14, 1976, Gardner was found brutally murdered in her home. Priven was arrested and charged with her murder. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to a psychiatric hospital in Tonga.
Priven was released from the hospital in 1980 and returned to the United States. He lived in Brooklyn for the rest of his life.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Deborah Gardner Memorial Fund, which supports programs for women and girls in Tonga.
On the obituary page somebody named Adam P. left the following message:
June 30, 2023
Deborah Gardner you will not be forgotten. Dennis Priven you got off way to easily. You butchered and killed a woman who rejected your advances and didn’t receive any type of punishment. You went on to work for the US government and were paid well and given a government pension. I hope you are at peace, but what you did to that poor woman was horrific and should have never happened.
To read about the case on this site, go to: