Friends of the woman who was mysteriously killed in the Turks and Caicos are speaking out, desperate "to know who did this."
Marie Kuhnla, 61, of Long Island, was found dead in bushes near the Club Med Resort where she was staying on Oct. 16, prompting a murder investigation, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force said Monday.
Kuhnla's friends and co-workers from the Suffolk County Legal Aid Society, Kim Nohilly and Helma Hermans, were on the trip with her, as well as Nohilly's 26-year-old daughter, the women told ABC New York station WABC-TV.
The groups arrived at Club Med on Oct. 10 and spent their days snorkeling, doing water aerobics and singing karaoke, WABC-TV reported.
Kuhnla "kept saying to me this is the best vacation," Nohilly said.
The last time the women saw Kuhnla was the night of Sunday, Oct. 14, when she said she was going to her room to take a nap, WABC-TV said. The friends reported her missing the next day.
"She did not deserve this," Hermans told WABC-TV. "She was one of the gentlest souls you would ever, ever meet."
"She was a loving, caring, compassionate woman who I was lucky to have for a mom," Kuhnla's son, Rick Kuhnla Jr., said in a statement. "If she saw someone who needed help she would help them."
Rick Kuhnla Jr. said his mother often visited his elderly grandmother, "taking her out to eat and keeping her company."
"She went back to school later in life to earn her law degree and spent over 15 years as a public defender, providing legal assistance to those who could not afford it," he said. "She was a wonderful woman who brightened the day of everyone who knew her and many who didn't. She may be gone but the impact she had on the world and inspiration she provided most certainly is not."
As authorities investigate the killing, Trevor Botting, acting commissioner of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police, said in a statement, "This is an active investigation into the death of Marie and I would ask that anyone with any information to please contact the investigators from the Serious Crime Unit or you can call in confidence at Crimestoppers on 1-800-8477."
Club Med added in a statement, "The entire Club Med family is saddened by the death of this guest and sends its deepest condolences to the guest's friends and family."