Peace Corps Murder Raises Questions On Safety Of Volunteers

POSTED: 02:09 AM PDT Apr 24, 2012    UPDATED: 11:34 PM PST Jan 14, 2011 
COACHELLA VALLEY, Calif. -

It's one of the most respected organizations on earth.

The Peace Corps was created by President John F. Kennedy to help people all over the world.

But on the eve of it's 50th anniversary questions are being raised about how safe women are serving overseas following the murder of a volunteer.

ABC News chief investigative correspondant Brian Ross has been probing the murder of peace corp volunteer Kate Puzey.

She served in Benin, Africa and that's where she was killed.

The organization has been accused of trying to cover up the murder and not protecting it's women overseas.

But one Cathedral City pastor says serving in the peace corp was the highlight of her life.

"I felt very safe in the peace corps," said Rev. Dr. Amanda Burr, with United Methodist Church of Palm Springs.

Burr served from 1972 until 1974 in Columbia, South America.

She was a nurse in a country that has now become so dangerous that the Peace Corps is no longer there.

"I was the only gringa in Puerto Carreno Vichada," said Burr. "But I had Columbian allies, who took very, very good care of me and made sure that I was always safe and protected."

But Peace Corps volunteer Kate Puzey, 24, was not as fortunate.

"We're at the Badjoud march, my march."

Her colleagues loved her and so did the people she helped in Benin, Africa.

"I was at Caswa for two hours," said Puzey.

In March 2009, she became the 23rd woman in the Peace Corps to be murdered since the organization's inception.

She learned that another teacher and peace corps volunteer was sexually molesting girls at her school.

Puzey turned him in by sending what she thought was a confidential email to the Peace Corps.

The accused teacher's brother worked in the Peace Corps office in Benin, and officials say someone there exposed what Puzey did.

Her throat was slit after the accused teacher was fired.

"We miss you darling," said Harry Puzey, Kate's father.

"Kate died in March and by May, no more contact with the Peace Corps," said Lois Puzey, Kate's mother.

"I think it's possible for anybody in a foreign country to get themselves in trouble," said Burr, who also mentioned that it's important to note that the people serving overseas for the Peace Corps are volunteers. "As a matter of fact, when I came back I was a recruiter and the recruitment process is quite stringent for people to get into the Peace Corps."

Puzey's family was dissappointed by with the Peace Corps following the murder.

They were left in the dark on what happened.

Burr sypathizes with the family, but believes stories like this are isolated and don't represent the Peace Corps as a whole.

"It made all the difference in my life," said Burr. "It was perhaps the singular most important thing that I ever did, and led me on a path that has led me into the ministry as a matter of fact to because a pastor of a church."

Over the last decade, more than 1,000 women volunteers have been raped or sexually assaulted while serving in the Peace Corps.