What to Know
After a LI attorney was found dead, having been strangled and her body left in bushes, those closest to her are still looking for answers
Marie Kuhnla had been on the Caribbean island of Turks and Caicos vacationing with colleagues, before she was reported missing Oct. 15, 2018
For the first time publicly, two friends she was with are revealing new details about Marie’s final hours and suspicions about a male guest
When 62 year-old Long Island resident Marie Kuhnla was found strangled to death on Turks and Caicos in October of 2018, police originally reported to the media that the Suffolk County Legal Aid attorney had been found “near” the Club Med resort.
“The first piece of misinformation,” said Helma Hermans, Kuhnla’s co-worker, who had been on the trip. “She was in the bushes on Club Med property within eyesight of guest cottages,” she added.
A medical examiner later ruled that Marie had died from manual strangulation — a homicide.
Hermans and another friend, Kim Nohilly, had traveled to the resort with their friend for a ‘girls getaway.’ For the first time publicly, the two are revealing new details about Marie’s final hours and their suspicions about a male guest, also from Long Island, who they say immediately latched onto the group.
Hermans said the man sexually groped her in the pool a couple of days before Marie disappeared. She didn’t report the incident at the time but did later, after Marie’s murder. The man later hired an attorney.
The two said Marie was last seen headed to her room to take a nap on a Sunday afternoon, adding she didn’t come to dinner. They reported her missing to Club Med security the next morning.
“They told us not to worry so much,” said Hermans.
Monday evening, the friends said they called police but claim they were told no one could search after dark.
Tuesday morning, her friends said they found the body — not security or Turks and Caicos police.
Marie’s husband said it’s been a constant battle to get information from police and there were even roadblocks to have her body returned to her home on Wantagh, Long Island.
“It took six weeks,” Rick Kuhnla said, adding that the body was so badly preserved, there couldn’t be a viewing.
Hermans said after her friend’s death, she reported the guest who’d allegedly groped her to police. The guest later confirmed to the I-Team on the phone he had been detained for the alleged sexual incident, but released on $10,000 bail, adding he believed the bail had been posted by an unknown person local to Turks and Caicos. Turks and Caicos prosecutors declined to pursue the sexual allegations.
In September, the lead Turks and Caicos investigator met on Long Island with Kuhnla’s husband and family representatives, telling them he believed Marie’s death was not a homicide. A spokesperson said the matter has now been sent to the coroner for review. Kuhnla said he has been unable to obtain the autopsy report.
“There’s no justice,” said Marie’s husband. "There’s only one industry there: tourism,” he added.
Kuhnla said police told him that there were no security cameras on the property itself, and that two cameras at the gate had not been operating in October of 2018.
“It just feels like someone is trying to shove this under the rug, and Marie deserves better,” said Hermans.
Club Med declined to comment on the Kuhnla case, saying in a statement: “Club Med takes the safety and security of all of our guests and employees as a serious matter. Club Med has numerous safety measures in place at each resort and is continuously reviewing its safety protocols to adjust safety measures as needed.”
Marie’s family has now hired a private investigator.