Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder in the Peace Corps

Message from God

The slaying was a stain on the reputation of the Peace Corps, and the organization did its best from the outset to minimize damage.

After the murder, the Tongan Peace Corps director, Mary George, sent a telegram to her superiors in Washington. She knew that another volunteer was believed responsible, but she managed to omit that detail, offering instead a vague implication of Gardner's Tongan neighbors.

"CIRCUMSTANCES OF DEATH ARE BEING INVESTIGATED BY POLICE. NEIGHBOURS WERE WITNESS. POLICE TAKING NAMES AND NATURE OF THEIR INVOLVEMENTS"

George, a political appointee of President Ford, was a former fashion model who went around in oversized Jackie O-style sunglasses.

George professed to be a religious woman who claimed a personal relationship with God. After the murder, God came knocking. She claimed to have learned in some form of divine intervention that Priven was innocent.

The evidence told another story.

Priven's eyeglasses and one of his flip-flops were found at the murder scene. The Tongan boys saw him holding Gardner's dying body, and she had spoke Priven's first name to rescuers.

But the Peace Corps' priority became obfuscation, not justice.

Mary George and the organization at large seemed to have two goals: Keep the story out of American papers, and get Priven the hell out of Tonga.

They would succeed on both counts.

 

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