More than 100 mourners gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Friday night to remember slain Peace Corps volunteer Kate Puzey, a 24-year-old from Atlanta murdered while serving in Africa in 2009.
Activists, returned Peace Corps volunteers and family members held electronic candles to commemorate Puzey and the two-dozen other volunteers who've been murdered while serving in the Peace Corps since its founding in 1961.
"Kate was someone who brought sunshine in the room with her," said Kate's mother Lois Puzey, standing at a podium beside a poster-sized photo of her late daughter. "She was someone who was a caregiver and gave comfort to other people."
But Puzey said she and her husband Harry and son David organized the event on the second anniversary of Kate's death with a bigger agenda in mind than just honoring Kate and other fallen volunteers. Puzey hopes the Peace Corps will mark its own 50th anniversary by offering greater protection to volunteers, especially whistleblowers, and more support to victims of violence and their families.
"We want to make sure that when people go out and are going to give their lives and serve that they're going to be safe," said Puzey. "And that if something goes wrong they're going to be supported."
As detailed in a January "20/20" report, while serving in Benin, West Africa in early 2009, Kate Puzey wrote an email to the Peace Corps' Benin headquarters reporting that she had heard a fellow Peace Corps employee, a local man who taught in the same village as she did, had raped some of her seventh-grade students.
Kate's parents told ABC News that they believe 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. Kate was found with her throat slit two weeks after she sent the email. 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 his innocence.
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.
But two weeks after Kate's death, the Peace Corps drafted a policy designed to protect the confidentiality of volunteers reporting sensitive information.
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.
Friday's vigil also honored other volunteers and their families who have experienced sexual assault, violence or death while serving abroad in the Peace Corps.
Linda Campbell's daughter Julia was murdered in 2007 while serving the Peace Corps in the Philippines.
"I felt like my heart had been ripped out," said Campbell. "I knew what Lois and Harry were going through."
She told the returned Peace Corps volunteers in attendance, "Never forget Kate and all your fellow volunteers who have gone through so much."