It was meant to be a fun getaway from the stresses of work, but 62-year-old Marie Kuhnla, an attorney from New York, never returned from her girl’s trip to Turks and Caicos.
Kuhnla’s body was found in the bushes near her resort Club Med on Oct. 16, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force revealed in a statement on Tuesday.
She was reported missing one day before, police say.
Kuhnla set off on the tropical getaway with her two good friends and coworkers Helma Hermans and Kim Nohilly on Oct. 10. The women, who worked at the Suffolk County Legal Aid Society and worked together for years in family court in Central Islip, spent the first couple of days of their vacation enjoying water excursions and singing karaoke.
“She kept saying to me this is the best vacation,” Nohilly told ABC 7.
On Sunday, Oct. 14, Nohilly said Kuhnla headed to her room early to take a nap and that was the last time they had seen her.
Nohilly, who had been friends with Kuhnla for 17 years, immediately knew something was wrong the following morning when Kuhnla didn’t answer her door, she told ABC 7.
Although Nohilly and Hermans reported her missing, they claim they did not get much help from authorities and were forced to search for their friend themselves.
Tragically on the next day, Nohilly’s daughter, who also accompanied the women on the trip, discovered Kuhnla’s body, ABC 7 reported.
“She did not deserve this,” Hermans told ABC 7. “She was one of the gentlest souls you would ever, ever meet.”
While the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force say Kuhnla’s death is under investigation and “no further details will be given at this time,” Nohilly and Hermans said authorities told them Kuhnla appeared to have been strangled, ABC 7 reported.
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According to News 12, Kuhnla lived in Wantagh with her husband and worked as a public defender for 15 years.
Kuhnla’s brother Peter John Chetuck opened up about his sister’s life telling Newsday, “She was a terrific wife, a terrific mother, a terrific family member.”
“She did everything correctly, the pristine home, the proverbial great neighbor and community member.”
Kuhnla’s son Rick Jr. also spoke with Newsday. “She was a loving, caring, compassionate woman who I was lucky to have for a mom,” Rick Jr. said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Marie at this time. This is an active investigation into the death of Marie and I would ask that anyone with any information to please contact the investigations from the Serious Crime Unit,” Acting Commissioner of Police Trevor Botting said.
Club Med did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment but said in a statement obtained by Newsday “The entire Club Med family is saddened by the death of this guest and sends its deepest condolences to the guest’s friends and family.”
“The safety, security and well-being of all of our guests remains our highest priority.”
At this time no arrests have been made.