What Killed Stephanie Chance?

PHOTO On Oct. 8, 2010, the Peace Corp announced volunteer Stephanie Chance had perished, apparently of natural cause, in Niger.

The mother of Stephanie Chance, a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa who died mysteriously, says she still doesn't know what killed her daughter, and the Peace Corps' decision to evacuate the country of Niger last weekend may mean she'll never be entirely sure.

But after Kathy Chance Bogner contacted ABC News, and ABC News contacted the Peace Corps, the organization did provide Bogner with answers to several outstanding questions about the status of investigations into Chance's death.

Chance, 26, was found dead in her bed on Oct. 7, 2010 of "natural causes" just two weeks after arriving at her post in Zinder, Niger, according to the Peace Corps. Results of an autopsy and of an internal Peace Corps investigation into the death are not yet complete, and on Jan. 17, the Peace Corps announced that it had removed all its personnel from Niger "due to ongoing concerns about volunteer safety." Two French citizens were killed in an Al Qaeda kidnapping on Jan. 8.

Bogner emphasized that she has no reason to believe her daughter did not die of natural causes. "[The Peace Corps] told me there were no signs of foul play, and as a mother you appreciate that," said Bogner. "But at the same time you wonder how a healthy 26-year-old girl goes to bed and doesn't wake up."

Bogner contacted ABC News after seeing the Jan. 14, 20/20 report about the 2009 murder of Peace Corps volunteer Kate Puzey, and the Peace Corps' silence when the Puzeys tried to learn more about their daughter's death.


The 20/20 report exposed a breach of confidentiality in the Benin, Africa Peace Corps office that Kate Puzey's family said could have led to her murder. Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said she could not discuss the case -- or the breach of confidentiality -- for fear of jeopardizing the trial of the main suspect, another Peace Corps employee.


Investigation Into Stephanie Chance's Death

Bogner's experience with the Peace Corps has been different than that described by members of the Puzey family. She said she is gratified that a Peace Corps representative has been calling to check in almost weekly since her daughter's death. Most recently, her Peace Corps liaison gave her the latest update on the status of her daughter's belongings, which are still in Niger despite the Peace Corps' evacuation. A cargo plane has been found to transport them, but the Peace Corps could not tell Bogner when they would be shipped.

Bogner has also been in touch with the doctor who is conducting her daughter's autopsy. When Chance died, Bogner was given the option of having the autopsy conducted in Niger or in the U.S. She opted for the U.S., and a doctor at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Dover, Delaware, where remains of service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are shipped, took over the case.

American authorities instructed medical staff in Niger on which fluids to extract from Chance's body before it was embalmed. The African doctors then shipped the embalmed body and the fluids to Dover for an autopsy. To date, the autopsy and the fluids have shown no foul play and no poison and have not revealed a specific cause of death. Two tests, one for infectious disease and one for genetic heart disease, have yet to be completed. Bogner says the Peace Corps is financing the tests.

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