Eight people have been detained in the murder of a former Michigan elementary school teacher was found bound, gagged and strangled to death in her apartment in the Dominican Republic, according to local media reports. She has been a teacher at a local Montesorri school.
Patricia “Patty” Ann Anton, 63, was found dead in her bed inside her home in the province of Puerto Plata, Dominican National Police spokesman Frank Felix Duran said. He added there were signs she had been tortured. She worked on the island as a teacher.
“I can’t imagine what kind of monster could do something like that to such a kind soul,” Adrianne Machina, Anton’s cousin, told WPVN-TV of Traverse City, Mich.
“I can’t imagine what kind of monster could do something like that to such a kind soul.”
According to Dominican newspaper Hoy, at least one of the suspects is a male Haitian national who worked in the Casa Yagua apartment complex as a janitor.
Anton had moved into her new apartment on Saturday. Her car remained parked outside the building after her body was removed.
Investigators say she died as part of a burglary, because her phone, laptop and 40-inch plasma TV were missing and her clothing drawers and cupboards had been searched.
Anton’s death threatened to revive safety concerns about the Dominican Republican, which saw a series of violent incidents involving Americans earlier this year.
In July, a Georgia man was killed after a day of sightseeing became the 14th American to die there since June 2018. The number of Americans killed there since the Georgia man’s death was not immediately known.
Police found no signs of forced entry, indicating the crime might have been committed by someone she knew, Dominican National police spokesman Frank Felix Duran said. No suspects have been identified. No arrests had been made as of Wednesday. The investigation is ongoing.
Anton worked for nearly six years at the Mariposas Montessori elementary school in Cabarete, a small town on the island’s northern shore, according to her LinkedIn profile. She served as a teacher before becoming the curriculum program director this year.
Anton, who was born in Italy, previously worked at a private elementary school in Traverse City for more than a decade, her LinkedIn profile said.
“She cared so deeply about the children and I knew that here, when she was teacher here and I knew that just through the stories she told. She was such a vital part of that community and they cared about her and loved her so much,” Michele Shane, head of school at The Children’s House in Michigan, told WPVN.
According to the Mariposa Montessori website, Anton graduated from Central Michigan University. She also worked at the Michigan State Capital as a legislative aide. She had experience volunteering in both Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
Family members announced Anton’s death on social media. They said Anton was a seasoned traveler, wife and mother.
“Our family is heartbroken by the loss of Patty. She was an amazing mother, teacher and friend – a role model to so many. She loved the DR – both the place and the people,” Machina, a Wisconsin resident, wrote on Facebook, according to Dominican Today.
“She had a heart of gold and would help anyone – but was also a seasoned savvy traveler who could hold her own and was always aware of her surroundings. I cannot imagine how this happened or what kind of monster could be so merciless to take her life in such a cruel way. Senseless. Heart breaking,” she said.
“My sister-in-law Patty Anton was one of the most caring people you could ever meet. She dedicated her life to helping children. Her death is a tragedy,” Thomas Anton, the woman’s brother-in-law, wrote on Facebook. “I have resolved to use her memory as an inspiration to be of greater service to those around me. She was kind to everyone, always, without exception.”
Relatives were expected to travel to the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, the New York Post reported. Her body was transported to the city of Santiago De Los Caballeros for an autopsy.
The island’s safety came under scrutiny earlier this year after Tammy Lawrence-Daley of Delaware claimed she was assaulted by a hotel employee at the all-inclusive luxury resort Majestic Elegance in Punta Cana. Her claims were amplified after the deaths of at least nine American tourists in the weeks that followed at various hotels across the country.
Autopsies showed the tourists died of natural causes, but two of the cases were receiving further toxicology analysis with help from the FBI. The U.S. State Department has discounted the idea of a surge of tourist deaths, saying it had not seen an uptick in the number of U.S. citizens who died in the Dominican Republic.
Fox News’ Lucia I. Suarez Sang contributed to this report.