Catherine "Kate" Puzey was found outside her home on March 12 in the village where she worked as an English teacher. Peace Corps and the U.S. Embassy in Cotonou are coordinating with local police authorities, who are currently conducting the investigation and will make a final pronouncement into the cause of death. The Government of Benin has expressed condolences to the U.S. government and pledged full cooperation and support in this matter. Ms. Puzey began her Peace Corps service in Benin on July 17, 2007. She had served in the Peace Corps as a TEFL English teacher in Badjoude for almost two years. She is a native of Cumming, GA. She was 24 years old.
The Puzeys said authorities have two suspects but haven't told them many details about the investigation. They said they don't believe her death was random. Neither the State Department nor the Peace Corps has commented on the cause of death. The Puzeys last saw their daughter when she came home in June for her mother's 60th birthday. Her mother then went back with her to Africa for a few weeks. They last spoke to her March 8, when she called them, as she did every Sunday, from a spot on her porch, the only place her cell phone worked. Emilie Jacobs-Finnegan, 31, spent her November birthday in Benin visiting her cousin. Jacobs-Finnegan said she was struck by how truly integrated her cousin was -- Puzey's best friend in Benin was a local midwife and she ate her meals with villagers instead of isolating herself at home.
Kate's funeral was held in Georgia on Saturday March 21 at the Birmingham United Methodist Church. President Barack Obama and the president of Benin, Dr. Boni Yayi, offered condolences to the Puzey family. Peace Corps/Benin Country Director Sheryl Cowan accompanied Kate's remains back to her family in Georgia and joined other Peace Corps and U.S. government officials, including acting Director Jody Olsen, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson ( R-GA ) and acting Regional Director for Africa Lynn Foden at the services. The response to Kate's death has been extraordinary. The Peace Corps community, Volunteers in Benin, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers ( RPCVs ) from Georgia and around the U.S have contacted and supported the Puzey family. Kate wrote in her Peace Corps Aspiration Statement in July 2007, "My international background has instilled in me a responsibility to act as a world citizen and I see the Peace Corps as my opportunity to take such action." Kate's love of service and community was shared by all who knew her. She will be greatly missed.