Family of Murdered Peace Corps Volunteer Mounts Candlelight Vigil On Capitol Steps

PHOTO Kate Puzey, a Peace Corps volunteer from Atlanta, Georgia, was killed in Benin, Africa, in March 2009. Her accused killer, now in prison and charged with murder, is a former fellow Peace Corps employee.
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The second anniversary of the tragic murder of a Peace Corps volunteer will be marked by a candlelight vigil on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Friday, March 11. The family of Kate Puzey, a 24-year-old from Atlanta who was murdered in Benin, West Africa in 2009, organized the event in hopes that the Peace Corps will mark its own 50th anniversary by offering greater protection to whistleblowers.

"It was originally devastating to discover that there were no whistleblower policies in place prior to our daughter's death and to see Peace Corps' lack of response to us as a grieving family," said Kate's mother Lois Puzey, who will be meeting with members of Congress on Thursday and Friday.

At Friday's vigil, participants will light 25 candles to honor all the volunteers who've been murdered while serving overseas since the organization was founded in 1961.

The vigil will also honor volunteers who have survived sexual assaults. Members of Congress and activists who hope to improve the Corps' response to sexual assaults against volunteers will be on the Capitol steps for the 6:30 p.m. event. At the end of the month, Congress will hold hearings about sexual assaults against Peace Corps volunteers.

The Puzeys were interviewed by ABC News "20/20" for a January report on Kate Puzey's murder. Kate had written an email to Benin's Peace Corps headquarters reporting that a fellow Peace Corps employee, a local man who taught in the same village as she, had raped some of her seventh-grade students, and suggesting that the Peace Corps take action.

Kate's parents told ABC News that the Peace Corps failed to protect their daughter, and that they suspect her email was shown to the brother of the man she reported, who worked at Benin headquarters. Two weeks after she sent the email, Kate was found with her throat slit. The man she reported, Constant Bio, is the prime suspect. Both he and his brother are being held by local authorities as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Bio has maintained that he is innocent.

The Peace Corps says that the agency will not comment on Kate Puzey's case until Bio's investigation and prosecution, overseen by the Benin government, is complete.

Two weeks after Kate's death in March 2009, the Peace Corps drafted a policy designed to protect the confidentiality of volunteers reporting sensitive information.

Kate's mother Lois Puzey said she felt the policy was "too little too late." She said that although she is happy the policy is in place, it is tragic that it was not there to protect her daughter.

"However, things have improved within the last year with new Peace Corps leadership who seem really committed to finally solving these problems," she added. "We hope and expect that they will continue to work with us to see that legislation is passed to protect future volunteers and support victims of violence."

The policy to protect volunteers' confidentiality when reporting sensitive information was put into practice two weeks after Kate's death, according to a Peace Corps official. It was formally issued as part of the Peace Corps manual, coded as Manual Section 271, on January 14, 2011, the same day as the 20/20 report.

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