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Oct. 29--GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala--The body of 26-year-old Peace Corps volunteer Joseph Teates was found hanging from ropes attached to his neck and feet in June 1987.
His death was called an accident.
The body of 27-year-old volunteer Brian Krow was found in Ukraine under a footbridge with chest-high railings along both sides.
His death, too, was called an accident.
Wyatt Pillsbury died of an overdose of drugs and alcohol in Tanzania in 2001, but the Peace Corps' public Web site says he died of "asphyxiation due to the aspiration of undigested food which was lodged in his throat."
A 20-month Dayton Daily News examination found that the United States government failed to reveal the full truth about the deaths of at least 10 Peace Corps volunteers who died over a 30-year period.
"I personally never believed them when they said it was an accidental death," said Ronda Thorne, who learned through records obtained by the Daily News that her brother, 25-year-old Jerry Dean Bryan of Spokane, Wash., had a history of alcohol and drug abuse before he died of a barbiturate overdose in Brazil in 1978.
Records from the State Department detailing the events prior to Bryan's death said, "Should not reveal full story."
Using never-before-released records from the Peace Corps' Deaths in Service computer database, the Daily News re-examined deaths in the Peace Corps since 1962. The newspaper also obtained new information in foreign countries and through a federal lawsuit the newspaper filed against the Peace Corps, which originally refused to release the records.
In 10 cases, the examination found that the agency misled or failed to provide essential details to the families, to the public or to other volunteers about the circumstances of how volunteers died. In at least six other cases, the Daily News found that circumstances other than those suggested by the Peace Corps were possible and that the deaths remain mysteries.
Other deaths, too, warranted further examination. But Peace Corps deaths have occurred in more than 60 countries, most with primitive record-keeping systems, and many happened more than 20 years ago, making it impossible to verify the information provided by the Peace Corps in every case.
Several families said they learned critical details about the deaths of their loved ones after being contacted by the Dayton Daily News.
Other families suspected the agency wasn't telling them the truth, but they have little means to investigate cases in foreign countries.
"I always felt like I got the runaround from them, like they were protecting themselves," said Stacy Krow, who believes her brother, Brian, either committed suicide or was killed in Ukraine in 1999.
In a written response, the Peace Corps says it relies on the causes of death as officially determined by local authorities, who are responsible for making such determinations.
"The Peace Corps is not the official investigating authority in any death of a volunteer," the response says. "Local authorities in country are in charge and report any official causes, details or other facts they believe to be true."
On April 22, 1962, volunteers David Crozier of West Plains, Mo., and Lawrence Radley of Chicago decided to extend their Easter vacation in Colombia and fly from the Pacific Coast resort of Bahia Solano to a remote area on the other side of the mountains.
Two other volunteers waited at the primitive landing strip for the DC-3 to make the short hop back over the mountains and return to take them back to their Peace Corps assignments.
"We waited, and the plane never returned," said former volunteer John Lewis, now retired from government service and living in suburban Washington, D.C. The plane crashed into a mountainside, killing everyone on board. The bodies were never recovered.
Crozier and Radley, both 22, were members of the first Peace Corps group to begin training, and they were the first volunteers to die in service.
Since the Peace Corps was founded in 1961, approximately 170,000 Americans have served, and more than 250 volunteers have died, an average of one death every two months. The dead include seven who died within 30 days after finishing their service.
Many families are pleased with the help and compassion given them by the Peace Corps. The agency has flown families to attend trials, paid funeral expenses, and Peace Corps directors have personally attended memorial services for fallen volunteers.
Bill and Ginny Bock said the agency hired lawyers to monitor the investigation into the shooting death of their son, Robert, in the Philippines in 1988, and kept in close touch with the family until the killers were convicted. Following the death of their daughter Elizabeth in a bicycle accident in 2002, Gerry and …