January 10, 2005: Headlines: COS - Tonga: Murder: Crime: Safety and Security of Volunteers: San Mateo County Times: An Interview with Emile Hons on the Deborah Gardner murder case

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tonga: Special Report: 'American Taboo: A Murder in the Peace Corps': January 10, 2005: Headlines: COS - Tonga: Murder: Crime: Safety and Security of Volunteers: San Mateo County Times: An Interview with Emile Hons on the Deborah Gardner murder case
American Taboo: A Murder in the Peace Corps

Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying
Congressman Norm Dicks has asked the U.S. attorney in Seattle to consider pursuing charges against Dennis Priven, the man accused of killing Peace Corps Volunteer Deborah Gardner on the South Pacific island of Tonga 28 years ago. Background on this story here and here.
American Taboo American Taboo
Read the story of Volunteer Deborah Gardner's murder in Tonga in 1976 and how her killer has been free for the past 28 years with the help of the Peace Corps. Read an excerpt from Philip Weiss' book documenting the murder and coverup. Then read an essay by RPCV Bob Shaconis who says that Peace Corps' treatment as a "sacred cow" has exempted it from public scrutiny and that the agency has labored to preserve its shining reputation, sometimes at the expense of the very principles it is supposed to embody.

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-43-253.balt.east.verizon.net - on Monday, January 10, 2005 - 1:19 pm: Edit Post

An Interview with Emile Hons on the Deborah Gardner murder case

An Interview with Emile Hons on the Deborah Gardner murder case

An Interview with Emile Hons on the Deborah Gardner murder case

Murder taints ex-Peace Corps volunteer's Tonga stint

San Bruno native Emile Hons, general manger of The Shops at Tanforan, was an art teacher in Tonga in 1976 when Dennis Priven, a friend and fellow Peace Corps volunteer, carried out the brutal murder of Deborah Gardner. Priven, jealous over Hons' relationship with the 23-year-old science teacher who had rebuffed Priven's romantic advances, stabbed her 22 times before turning himself in. In the new book, "American Taboo: A Murder in the Peace Corps," author Philip Weiss describes how Priven went free after pleading insanity and the lengths the Peace Corps went to to suppress knowledge of the murder in the United States. Hons recently met with staff writer Malaika Fraley.

Q. Was there any doubt who killed Gardner?

A. I was at a movie that night. I had invited Debbie to go, but she had a weaving lesson. When I came home, two young Tongan kids said that Dennis had hurt Debbie. I didn't think it was anything serious, but when I got back to the hut, her door was ajar and the light was on. I pushed it open, expecting to see her, and all I saw was a large puddle of blood.

Q. Had police responded at this point?

A. No. I saw Dennis's backpack and his one flip-flop, his knife, the one he killed her with.
There was a bloody handprint down the wall, and I think his glasses were there, all in the blood, and I was just in shock. Andthen a Tongan behind me said, "They took her to the hospital." I remember just coming out of my haze and locking her door, jumping on my bike and sprinting to the hospital.

One of the villagers who took her to the hospital I still know him, he lives here ran to the hut and found her. He asked her if I did it, and she told him that Dennis did it. And then she told him to make sure she gets home, because I think she knew she was dying.

Through a window at the hospital, I could see her inside propped up on a gurney. A policeman wouldn't let me in, but I figured she was still alive. Then I went looking for Dennis, figuring he was going to kill himself. Today, I wonder why I went to look for him, but at the time, I felt I needed to help another friend. We looked in several places and couldn't find him. Finally, we heard that he turned himself in. I went to the jail and they weren't letting anybody see him, but I knew a lot of the police and talked my way in. All I could say was, "Why?" And he said, "This just proves I'm insane."

Q. You escorted Gardner's body back to her family in Washington state?

A. Yeah, which shocked me, because I thought a Peace Corps representative would have done it, but they wanted me to do it. After I brought her body back, they flew me to D.C., where a bunch of lawyers interviewed me for quite a while. They were very upset at me, because I mentioned that I knew a good lawyer in the Bay Area that could maybe help Dennis. They flipped out, because they were trying to keep it quiet. It was election year, Carter and Ford. I know that Ford didn't like the Peace Corps too much, and I think they were trying to protect the program. They didn't want it to start a fire here.

When I got back to Tonga, I went in to tell Dennis that the government also had me talk to his parents. And that's when he says, "I have this idea that will get me off. They will put me on trial, they'll find me guilty, and then you confess to doing it, and then they'll try you, and I'll confess..."

Q. A double-jeopardy scheme?

A. Yeah. The blood just rushed out of me. That was the last time I went to see him. I felt at that point that I was one of those chess pieces, as it were, one of his cards up his sleeve.

Q. People in the book criticize the U.S. government for putting a lot of resources into Priven's defense and doing nothing for Gardner, who was also a Peace Corps volunteer.

A. I have mixed feelings on that. Emotionally, I go both ways. But, technically, if you're working as a Peace Corps volunteer, you should be protected by the government. I felt he was insane and needed a good defense for two reasons. Tonga had no mental health facilities at all, they didn't even have a word for schizophrenic. They hung people, crazy or not, if they committed murder. There was no such thing as an insanity defense.

Q. Explain how the deal that was worked out between the two governments after he was found not guilty by reasons of insanity.

A. The Tongan government thought that they would be in charge of Dennis and put him in prison. Our government didn't want that, because it would generate negative press in the U.S. So they put together an agreement, a written guarantee that said as soon as Dennis hit U.S. soil, he would either enter a mental institution voluntarily or he would be forced to live in one until he was found healthy enough to re-enter society. But the agreement turned out not to be binding, and Dennis said he wasn't doing it. Basically, when he returned, he saw a psychiatrist a couple times, and the psychiatrist said he suffered a momentary psychosis. Dennis walked.

Not only did he walk, but the government cleared his criminal record, which is shocking to me. It was like he was awarded special treatment, maybe to keep him quiet, who knows?

Q. How did the people back in Tonga react?

A. The Peace Corps volunteers were incensed because it soured the program. The Tongan people, they somewhat lost respect for the Americans. And maybe they kind of used it to say, "You're not so good after all, are you?"

A lot of Tongans were told that Dennis was killed by one of Debbie's family members when he stepped onto the tarmac in the U.S. Whether that was a way of calming the Tongans down, I don't know, because that's what probably Tongans would have done to feel comfortable with. ... I think a lot of volunteers were bitter but still worked hard and still did a good job. But there was always a cloud over them.

Q. What do you hope comes from the release of "American Taboo?"

A. The story needed to be told and the greater population needs to know about it. It's an injustice of the highest ranking, in my opinion. Not only did Dennis not get treatment and the government clear his record, he was put into the vast population of New York untreated. He could have killed someone else.

Q. Are you hoping that Priven will be brought to justice? Do you think that's even possible?

A. There's a senator from Washington who's looking into bringing this back to trial, or whatever. I didn't think it would be possible, because he's already had a trial, he's already been found not guilty by reason of insanity. As far as him not going into a mental institution, I think that's a dead issue. But evidentially, there's slight chance of bringing him up on murder charges. The senator says he's working on that, but it may just be hot air after "48 Hours" covered the story. I hope if something is brought up, that it's not just a waste of time. But more importantly, I hope it's not just hot air to get elected.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion Date: January 8 2005 No: 373 Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion
Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, says in an op-ed, A chance to show the world America at its best: "Even as that worthy agency mobilizes a "Crisis Corps" of former Peace Corps volunteers to assist with tsunami relief, I believe an opportunity exists to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Peace Corps and its expansion to touch more and more lives."
RPCVs active in new session of Congress Date: January 8 2005 No: 374 RPCVs active in new session of Congress
In the new session of Congress that begins this week, RPCV Congressman Tom Petri has a proposal to bolster Social Security, Sam Farr supported the objection to the Electoral College count, James Walsh has asked for a waiver to continue heading a powerful Appropriations subcommittee, Chris Shays will no longer be vice chairman of the Budget Committee, and Mike Honda spoke on the floor honoring late Congressman Robert Matsui.

January 8, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: January 8 2005 No: 367 January 8, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
Zambia RPCV Karla Berg interviews 1,374 people on Peace 7 Jan
Breaking Taboo, Mandela Says Son Died of AIDS 6 Jan
Dreadlocked PCV raises eyebrows in Africa 6 Jan
RPCV Jose Ravano directs CARE's efforts in Sri Lanka 6 Jan
Persuading Retiring Baby Boomers to Volunteer 6 Jan
Inventor of "Drown Proofing" retires 6 Jan
NPCA Membership approves Board Changes 5 Jan
Timothy Shriver announces "Rebuild Hope Fund" 5 Jan
More Water Bottles, Fewer Bullets 4 Jan
Poland RPCV Rebecca Parker runs Solterra Books 2 Jan
Peace Corps Fund plans event for September 30 Dec
RPCV Carmen Bailey recounts bout with cerebral malaria 28 Dec
more top stories...

RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid  Date: January 4 2005 No: 366 Latest: RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid
Peace Corps made an appeal last week to all Thailand RPCV's to consider serving again through the Crisis Corps and more than 30 RPCVs have responded so far. RPCVs: Read what an RPCV-led NGO is doing about the crisis an how one RPCV is headed for Sri Lanka to help a nation he grew to love. Question: Is Crisis Corps going to send RPCVs to India, Indonesia and nine other countries that need help?
The World's Broken Promise to our Children Date: December 24 2004 No: 345 The World's Broken Promise to our Children
Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.
Changing of the Guard Date: December 15 2004 No: 330 Changing of the Guard
With Lloyd Pierson's departure, Marie Wheat has been named acting Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations responsible for the day-to-day management of the Peace Corps. Although Wheat is not an RPCV and has limited overseas experience, in her two years at the agency she has come to be respected as someone with good political skills who listens and delegates authority and we wish her the best in her new position.
Our debt to Bill Moyers Our debt to Bill Moyers
Former Peace Corps Deputy Director Bill Moyers leaves PBS next week to begin writing his memoir of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Read what Moyers says about journalism under fire, the value of a free press, and the yearning for democracy. "We have got to nurture the spirit of independent journalism in this country," he warns, "or we'll not save capitalism from its own excesses, and we'll not save democracy from its own inertia."
RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack
RPCV Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the U.S. consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia survived Monday's attack on the consulate without injury. Five consular employees and four others were killed. Abercrombie-Winstanley, the first woman to hold the position, has been an outspoken advocate of rights for Arab women and has met with Saudi reformers despite efforts by Saudi leaders to block the discussions.
Is Gaddi Leaving? Is Gaddi Leaving?
Rumors are swirling that Peace Corps Director Vasquez may be leaving the administration. We think Director Vasquez has been doing a good job and if he decides to stay to the end of the administration, he could possibly have the same sort of impact as a Loret Ruppe Miller. If Vasquez has decided to leave, then Bob Taft, Peter McPherson, Chris Shays, or Jody Olsen would be good candidates to run the agency. Latest: For the record, Peace Corps has no comment on the rumors.
The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

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Story Source: San Mateo County Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Tonga; Murder; Crime; Safety and Security of Volunteers



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