Deborah Gardner

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Deborah Gardner

Passed away: 1976/01/01

Country Tonga
Cause of death: Homicide
Passed away while serving in: Tonga
Robert Benson, Deborah Gardner, Tessa Horan
Passed away in: 1976/01/01
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Source: FOIA request #10076 (June 2010)

Deborah Gardner was a Peace Corps volunteer who was murdered by another volunteer on the South Pacific island of Tonga in 1976.

Gardner was a recent graduate of Washington State University when she joined the Peace Corps. She was stationed on the island of Tonga where she met Dennis Priven, a volunteer who had come to Tonga a year earlier. Priven was instantly infatuated with Gardner but Gardner did not share his feelings. The disparity in their feelings became abundantly clear when Gardner accepted a dinner invitation from Priven: he envisioned a romantic dinner, but after he attempted to give Gardner an expensive gift, she left, feeling uncomfortable. Despite this, Priven continued to pursue her and she continued to try to evade him, going so far as to request a transfer to another island.

A few months before the end of Priven's Peace Corps stint, a party was held for all the volunteers on Tonga, attended by both Priven and Gardner. Gardner left the party, intoxicated, with another member of the Corps who escorted her to her hut, witnessed by Priven and others. Less than a week after the party, Priven killed Gardner.

A local villager heard screams coming from Gardner's hut and rushed to the scene. He reported seeing Priven attempting to drag Gardner out of the hut. As soon as Priven noticed the villager, he dropped her body and fled the scene on bicycle. She later died from 22 stab wounds, but not before she was able to say who attacked her.


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