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Daughter showed courage

Family still grieves for slain volunteer

POSTED: March 11, 2010 5:30 p.m.
File photo/

Kate Puzey, right, taught English for the Peace Corps in the west African country of Benin. Puzey's body was found March 12, 2009, outside her home in the village of Badjoude.

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The family of a 24-year-old slain Peace Corps volunteer is still searching for closure and answers one year after her death in the west African nation of Benin.

Kate Puzey’s body was found March 12, 2009, outside her home in the village of Badjoude, where she taught English. She reportedly died the night before.

A video about her has been posted online and Peace Corps volunteers have put up a Facebook page in Puzey’s honor. The page encourages others to participate in a day of service in her memory.

A blog Puzey kept of her adventures in Benin is also still online.

The well-traveled Puzey was born in Germany, graduated high school in Okinawa, Japan, and spent her junior year of college studying in Montpelier, France.

Her parents, Harry and Lois Puzey, have made their home in Forsyth County.

Lois Puzey said the past year has been “the most difficult of our lives.”

“There’s still so much grieving for the beautiful girl of ours,” she said.

Adding to the past 12 months’ struggles are Harry Puzey’s health problems.

Puzey said her husband was originally diagnosed about three years ago with throat cancer, but the disease went into remission.

It resurfaced in October in his lungs and is being treated with chemotherapy.

Lois Puzey taught social studies at Little Mill Middle School until January and her husband has worked as a substitute teacher in the school district.

She said they continue to gather information about the events surrounding their daughter’s death.

She explained her daughter discovered that a co-teacher, who was not a Peace Corps volunteer, was sexually abusing some of the female students at the school where they worked.

“Co-teachers and other students were upset and they came to Kate to try to get some help, to contact someone and try to get him out of the school,” she said. “She tried to do that anonymously and unfortunately the anonymity was broken.”

Puzey said her daughter’s murder happened within days of her reporting the other teacher.

Three people, including the suspect and his brother, were arrested a short time later. They have remained in jail since.

“We feel like she was a hero and we wanted people to know that,” Puzey said. “She was an amazingly courageous and compassionate person who stood up for those that couldn’t protect themselves.”

The case was originally set for trial in Benin last fall, but has been postponed until November.

Puzey said the Peace Corps was initially helpful and supportive. Eventually, she and her family weren’t getting the answers they needed.

She, along with members of a small advocacy group formed on her daughter’s behalf, went to Washington, D.C. a couple of weeks ago to get those answers from Peace Corps officials.

“That was a very positive and productive meeting in the end,” she said. “We also spoke to congressmen and senators that we felt could help us find out what we needed.”

She noted that U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson came to her daughter’s funeral and has been “very, very supportive and helpful all along.”

Kate Puzey graduated in 2006 from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., where she studied sociology and business.

She joined the Peace Corps in July 2007. She was scheduled to return home last summer.



 

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