Suicide... Feels more like foul play...

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: July 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: July 23, 2003 - Peace Corps Press Release: Updated to Investigation on death of PCV Zachary Merrill : July 23, 2003 - Peace Corps Press Release: Investigation on death of PCV Zachary Merrill : Suicide... Feels more like foul play...

By Kathleen Mitchell on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 3:53 pm: Edit Post

suicide...verdict seems strange...if he was so well liked and respected, a source of life and laughter to so many, and had even requested an extension of his stay...why would he contradict his request to stay, by cutting short his initial term????

By Adam Van Loon on Thursday, August 21, 2003 - 7:44 pm: Edit Post


My name is Adam Van Loon and I'm a writer and editor for Portland Monthly magazine, Portland's city magazine. I'm also a young guy, 25, and I have many friends currently and who have served in the Peace Corps.

Because Zach was from Lake Oswego (a suburb of Portland) I've been following the news of his death for the magazine. If anyone knows him or has further information about his experience in Mali, please let me know.

Adam Van Loon
Portland Monthly Magazine
503 222 5144 x3

By on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 7:48 am: Edit Post

Yea, Kathleen I still feel strange about it too. I don't know the real circumstances. I would like to know more. However, I have also given credence to the "unbelievable notion that it could be a suicide". I hope their is an independent investigation, however, the cost would be enormous. I feel for the family of Zack Merrill and I feel for his memory. He sounds like he was a great guy?

I do have some questions?

Did he serve by himself?

If he did, don't you think a support mechanism of another volunteer would have been better than one? The circumstances of his death demonstrates the need for volunteers to serve together and the call for "real confidential" mental health services in the field or counseling volunteers, without the feeling that you are documenting their separation.

Also, Bla is going toward the north of Mali. It is a Muslim country. Bla is a heavily muslim village.

With the recent release of 17 hostage/tourists by the Malian government, Has Peace Corps investigated the presence in Bla of the group responsible for the hostage taking in the northern part of Mali? There are always these types of questions in the back of people's minds.

This is not the job of Peace Corps. It is the job of our country and State Department. Members of State Department and Peace Corps, how are you ensuring the safety of Peace Corps Volunteers in the northern part of Mali? Are all volunteers paired with one another volunteer? Call and ask the administration. If they aren't, demand a realignment of volunteers in that area.

I am sure Peace Corps will put someone forward saying they are serving alone and everything is fine. This is how they defer these types of inquiries or increasing volunteer safety. This is my opinion.

The unscrupulous individuals who came to my site and threatened my safety were from the countries who are responsible for the recent hostage taking.

Sorry to my detractors, facts are facts.

To the Merrill's, I really feel for you and I hope someday I can help bolster his memory, contributions to Peace Corps, his friends and humanity and the people of Mali.

In the back of my mind, I do question Peace Corps, want to know more details, and these questions come from my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali. These questions also come from the way they treated me when I reported a safety incident. They (the Peace Corps) continues to be the same way. I want to believe Peace Corps, but I also have serious questions about their past in these investigations. There still isn't a private investigator on Walter Poirier's case.


By Anonymous on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 7:58 am: Edit Post

Did anyone ever get the toxocology report? That's what most people were waiting on.

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