Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder in the Peace Corps

Tonga Today

Gaddi Vasquez
Gaddi Vasquez

After publication of Weiss' book, Gaddi Vasquez, the director of the Peace Corps, visited Tonga in the fall of 2005 to reaffirm the organization's commitment to the island kingdom.

Vasquez had an audience with King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV. The Peace Corps boss later said the two men discussed, according to one media account, "the success and the positive results of the meaningful relationship that exists between volunteers who are serving here and the people of Tonga, as well as discussing the continuity of the program and the fact that it has become a solid record of collaboration."

Neither the king nor Vasquez mentioned Deborah Ann Gardner's name during their meeting, apparently. The king may or may not have known that Vasquez arrived in Tonga a few days after the 29th anniversary of her murder.

King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV
King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV

But the potentate had bigger worries.

Tongan commoners have grown weary of watching the king and his fat cat cronies live in high style while they all but starve under the feudal system. The country has been roiled by work stoppages and violence. Government vehicles and houses owned by the royal family have been torched. School classrooms have been vandalized, and hundreds have been arrested.

One continuing source of irritation is Clive Edwards, Priven's attorney, who served for most of the past decade as Tonga's police minister, earning the nickname "The Hangman."

The revelations about the lack of any confinement for Priven have further damaged Edwards' image.

A recent letter from a reader of a Tongan magazine spelled out a prevailing attitude:

"I wouldn't want Clive Edwards to hold any position of power. Clive Edwards was in fact the criminal defense lawyer for Dennis Priven...With the help of Edwards, instead of being hanged, which is the custom for murderers in Tonga, Priven was allowed to return to the US where he got a slap on the wrists...It's ironic how a criminal defense lawyer who got a brutal murderer off on an insanity plea went on to be nicknamed 'the Hangman.'"

Edwards has proven to be keenly sensitive to criticism about the Priven case. He replied to the letter:

"If we accept (the writer's) reasons on face value, then we must conclude that he does not know what he is talking about...(and) that all lawyers would be disqualified for one reason or another from holding any public office. This would be particularly true in the case of trial lawyers who are sworn on oath to defend people in accordance with the law."


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