A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER IS MURDERED BY ANOTHER VOLUNTEER � BUT DID THE U.S. GOVERNMENT HELP A KILLER GO FREE?
A 48 HOURS MYSTERY in Conjunction with the Harper Collins Book
American Taboo Saturday -- Oct. 23
On Oct. 14, 1976, Deborah Gardner, a beautiful young American Peace Corps volunteer from Tacoma, Wash., was murdered while on assignment in the South Pacific island nation of Tonga. Dennis Priven, a 24-year-old fellow Peace Corps worker from Brooklyn, N.Y., who friends say was obsessed with Gardner, was charged with her murder by Tongan police. But in a bizarre turn of events, Priven avoided going to prison for Gardner�s murder and received a clean record from the Peace Corps. Many today are left wondering if justice was served and if the Peace Corps was trying to protect the murderer. Correspondent Susan Spencer reports for a 48 HOURS MYSTERY: �American Taboo,� to be broadcast Saturday, Oct. 23 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
At his trial, Priven faced death by hanging if found guilty. His attorney argued that he was a paranoid schizophrenic and was therefore not guilty by reason of insanity. A Tongan jury agreed, but with no Tongan facilities available to treat Priven, Peace Corps and State Department officials arranged for him to be returned to the U.S., where they promised he would be admitted to a psychiatric institution.
Once back in the U.S., the Peace Corps soon learned they had no legal authority over Priven. It was only at the urging of Peace Corps officials that he agreed to see a psychiatrist, whose diagnosis was that Priven had experienced a psychotic episode when he killed Gardner and that he was no longer a threat to anyone.
With that diagnosis, Priven was free to go and he returned to Brooklyn. Ironically, he worked for the U.S. government as a computer specialist at the Social Security Administration. Priven briefly married and recently retired. Today, Gardner�s family and friends wonder if Priven was really mentally ill or simply used the insanity defense to get away with murder.
This 48 HOURS MYSTERY follows the true-life story told by best-selling author Phil Weiss in his new book American Taboo (Harper Collins, 2004).
48 HOURS MYSTERY: �American Taboo� is produced by Lisa Freed and Sara Ely Hulse. The senior producer is Anthony Batson and the executive producer is Susan Zirinsky.