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23-Year-Old New York Tourist Found Dead on Trail in Panama Was Likely Strangled, Report Says

The hostel where Catherine Johannet had been staying reported her missing after she didn't return from her day trip to Bastimentos Island

What to Know

  • Catherine Johannet, of Scarsdale, was reported missing by her hostel when she didn't return from a day trip
  • The 23-year-old Scarsdale woman had traveled to Bastimentos Island, a tourist spot known for its beaches, hiking trails and wildlife
  • Her body was found on a wooded trail near the beach Sunday; the FBI is assisting Panamanian authorities in their investigation

A preliminary autopsy on the 23-year-old tourist from Westchester County found dead in the woods near a beach in Panama indicates the young woman was strangled, according to a Panamanian national TV network. 

The body of Catherine Johannet, a Scarsdale woman who had already visited six continents and innumerable countries by her early 20s, according to her brother, was found Sunday in a wooded stretch on Bastimentos Island. 

The initial autopsy findings were first reported by Panamanian national TV network TVN. Panamanian authorities declined to comment on the report, tweeting in Spanish late Tuesday that the probe "is kept under strict reserve." 

Johannet had been staying in a hostel on Colon Island and went to Bastimentos, an island known for its pristine beaches, hiking trails and wildlife, for a day trip, authorities have said. When she didn't return, the hostel reported her missing. Her body was found three days later. 

The FBI is assisting Panamanian authorities in their investigation. 

Johannet's family, meanwhile, is mourning the loss of a woman they remember as a "laughing, adventurous, warm little girl." 

"She was always there to listen to you and just enjoy life with her loved ones," her sister Laura wrote on Facebook. 

Her older brother Paul said Catherine Johannet had recently returned from an 18-month trip to Vietnam, where she taught English literature to local students. He said he would always look up to her. 

"She was cheerful, adventurous, thoughtful and warm - all qualities I strive towards," Paul Johannet wrote on Facebook. 

Catherine Johannet's last Instagram post, put up about a week ago, shows a smiling woman in sunglasses and bathing suit, standing in the aqua-colored sea at Isla Ina, one of the small islands off the northern coast of Panama, a glorious backdrop of pillowy clouds behind her. 

"I found paradise and it's called Isla Ina!" she wrote. 

According to her LinkedIn profile, Catherine Johannet earned her bachelor's degree from Columbia. She graduated from Edgemont High School in 2011, and the schools superintendent released a statement Wednesday describing her as a "bright and joyous" young woman with a promising future. 

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Scarsdale Congregational Church on Heathcote Road.

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