The murder of Deborah Gardner in 1976 in Tonga still haunts the Peace Corps agency and particularly those who were in Tonga during this terrible time when the agency did not do justice to one of their own.
I have written about this murder several times over the years and Jan Worth Nelson (Tonga 1976-78) wrote the 2006 novel Night Blind based on the murder. She alerted me to the recent documentary. It is part of a series called “Passport to Murder” produced for Discovery ID TV. The segment on Deborah Gardner was entitled “The Devil in Paradise.” It was aired on July 29, 2016.
Jan, who was interviewed for the segment wrote me after it aired, “I have come to believe there probably isn’t any closure to be had. But unlike Emile Hons (Tonga 1974-76), I didn’t really know her AND, most importantly, I didn’t walk into that cursed hut to see all the blood, as he did. Nor did I see her sliced-up dead body on the gurney, like he did. He has had to find ways to cope with the effect of what he saw that terrible night. Nonetheless, as you could see in the show, even now the emotion of all that still feels painfully fresh. It doesn’t take much for me to cry even now at the thought of what happened. Now, as a 66-year-old woman, I am struck anew by how young we all were, how basically innocent we all were, including and especially, of course, Debbie. I think we all thought of ourselves as somewhat cosmopolitan to be there, having our worldly adventure. But really we were essentially young, eager, good-hearted middle-class American kids. Nothing prepared us for what Dennis did. “
If you missed the documentaryit, here’s a link: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4mghgm_passport-to-murder-the-devil-in-paradise_school