American Teacher Is Found Bound, Gagged and Strangled in Her Dominican Republic Home

Chris Harris

Authorities in the Dominican Republic have found the body of a 63-year-old Michigan woman who moved to the island nation 15 years ago to work as a Montessori school teacher.

According to local reports, Patricia “Patty” Anton was found dead in her home in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday — bound and gagged, facedown on her bed.

Lopez Doriga reports Anton died of strangulation asphyxiation during a robbery of her home.

Several electronic items and other valuables were taken from the home, located in the district of Cabarete, in Puerto Plata, according to Noticia.do. Clothing was also found missing, reports indicate.

Police are not sure if her killing was the work of one or multiple suspects.

Originally from Traverse City, Michigan, Anton was working at Mariposas Montessori, a private school where she’d recently been promoted from teacher to curriculum program director, reports Dominican Today.

Investigators say Anton may have known her killers, as there were no signs of forced entry into her home.

Related: Dominican Republic Tourists Died of Natural Causes, Not Tainted Alcohol

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Detectives are working to identify possible suspects.

Adrianne Machina, who was Anton’s cousin, said that she loved visiting the Dominican Republic, and realized her lifelong dream of moving there once her own children were grown.

“She loved the Dominican Republic so much and the people,” said Machina. “She felt safe there, and she would help anybody. But she also knew how to hold her own — she wasn’t some doe-eyed girl who went there from the U.S. She was an amazing person.”

Anton joined the Peace Corps right out of high school, and as part of her work with the organization, helped to build a school in the Dominican Republic.

“She believed in the Montessori philosophy of self-reliance,” Machina said. “She loved to cook, and was a great photographer. She could cry at the drop of a hat and had such a smile. She was very sweet and very sensitive and very protective.”

Machine tells PEOPLE Anton’s children are “in shock and overwhelmed” over their mother’s murder.

PEOPLE was unable to reach anyone at Mariposas Montessori.