Crime Scene Tape

Police: Long Island Lawyer Slain In Turks And Caicos

October 23, 2018 - 6:33 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- A Long Island attorney was murdered while on vacation in Turks and Caicos, authorities said.

The victim, identified as 61-year-old Marie Kuhnla, of Wantagh, was visiting the islands with friends when she was killed.

She was reported missing on Oct. 15.

Her body was discovered the next morning in the bushes near a sports field at a Club Med resort, where she was staying.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Marie at this time," Acting Commissioner of Police, Trevor Botting said in a statement posted on Facebook. "This is an active investigation into the death of Marie and I would ask that anyone with any information to please contact the investigators from the Serious Crime Unit or you can call in confidence at Crimestoppers on 1-800-8477."

Her sister, Claire, tells WCBS 880 that in the days leading up to the vacation, it was all Kuhnla could talk about.

"She was all packed. She was ready to go. She couldn't wait, she had everything planned out, she was so excited," Claire said, adding she feels numb and lost since her sister's murder. "It just feels like it's not real to me."

Information from police has been limited.

"They did an autopsy on Friday, they called us on Saturday to tell us that the cause of death was strangulation yet they won't tell us any information surrounding that. Whether there's a suspect, how do they know that," she said.

Kuhnla lived on a quiet, well manicured street in Wantagh, where neighbors were stunned by her death.

"I just couldn't believe it. First of all when she passed away was one thing, and then they think she was murdered. For what?" one neighbor said.

"I'm shocked but you know in this day and age you never know. You step outside your own door and anything could happen. You have to be alert and you have to be watching out for yourself," another neighbor said.

In a statement to WCBS 880, Kuhnla's son, Rick Kuhnla, Jr. who lives in California, described his mother as a "loving, caring, compassionate woman."

"If she saw someone who needed help she would help them. She enjoyed reading, being at the beach, seeing new places, and dining out. My mom frequently visited her elderly mother, taking her out to eat and keeping her company. She went back to school later in life to earn her law degree and spent over 15 years as a public defender, providing legal assistance to those who could not afford it. She was a wonderful woman who brightened the day of everyone who knew her and many who didn't. She may be gone but the impact she had on the world and inspiration she provided most certainly is not," the statement read.

In January, a warning went out by the U.S. State Department about traveling to Turks and Caicos saying use increased caution because of violent crimes there like armed robberies and shootings.

Kuhnla was an attorney for the Suffolk County Legal Aid Society.