Peace Corps Writers
To preserve and to learn
PCV Accused of Murdering His Wife

by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962–64)

 More Peace Corps history:

A Peace Corps Test    

 Establishing the PC   

Living on the Edge: Paul Theroux   

The Marjorie Michelmore Postcard

2/15/62 - PA newspaper doubts future
of Peace Corps

The Real Job of the Peace Corps - a ’60s staff member’s view

Outward Bound -
Puerto Rico training

OVER THE FORTY YEARS OF THE PEACE CORPS more than one PCV has slipped a thick blank-paged journal into their luggage, ready to record their experience while on this great new adventure. Many, of course, think that perhaps someday they’ll turn all the notes into a novel or a memoir.
     Paul Theroux, for example, used his journals to write his 1989 novel, My Secret History, which is set partly in Malawi and Uganda. Mike Tidwell turned to his journals when he wrote The Ponds of Kalamabayi about his time in Zaire. And Kathleen Coskran used the journals she kept in Ethiopia for several of her stories in her prize-winning collection, The High Prize of Everythng.
But it was the journal of another PCV, William Kinsey, which first brought Peace Corps writers into international headlines.
     In 1966, five years after the founding of the Peace Corps, PCV William Kinsey was accused of murdering his wife in up-country Tanzania. His Peace Corps journal was used as evidence against him in his court trial.
     William Kinsey was just out of college in the summer of 1964 when he went off to training at Syracuse University for a Peace Corps assignment to Malawi. At Syracuse, Bill met Peverley Dennett, a trainee assigned to teach in Tanzania. Bill had his county of assignment changed to Tanzania by PC/W and ninety-four days later he married the beautiful auburn-haired Peverley. The couple spent their honeymoon in transit to Africa and started their Peace Corps service as secondary school teachers in up-country Maswa, Tanzania.
     A year and a half later, in March of 1966, Bill was arrested for killing Peverley while they were picnicking near their school. He became the first Peace Corps Volunteer ever to be charged with murder.

Kinsey’s version
Bill maintained that Peverley had accidentally slipped and fatally injured herself in a 20-foot fall from a rocky ledge. The state prosecutor of Tanzania said Kinsey, inflamed by jealousy, had battered his wife to death with a length of iron pipe.
     When Kinsey was arrested at the picnic site by a Maswa policeman, he was being held captive by 100 local people who said he had been trying to flee the scene. Nearby, the arresting officer found a rock and metal pipe caked with fresh blood and some threads of human hair. Kinsey’s shirt was also blooded.
     Bill told the Maswa police that the pipe was part of his camera equipment, and he did not know how the piece of metal had become bloodstained. His clothes, he said, had blood on them because he tried to help his wife after she had fallen.
     Later Bill told the Tanzanian court that Peverley and he had spent the weekend grading papers and then late on Sunday afternoon had left for a picnic at the rocky site. Because they were going so late in the day, he decided to leave his camera and other photographic equipment behind. The piece of metal, wrapped in a towel, had been left by mistake in the picnic basket. The pipe was used, Kinsey told the court, as a lightweight tripod for his 400 mm telephoto lens.
     Kinsey explained that after bicycling to the picnic site, he and Peverley climbed to the top of the hill to get a better view. At the time, Peverley was carrying a book and a bottle of beer.

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