Cabarete, Dominican Republic – Dominican Republic law enforcement officers have released eight people who they had taken into custody in connection with the brutal murder of a 63-year-old American teacher.
Patricia Ann Anton was bound, gagged and tortured inside her Cabarete apartment before her attackers strangled her to death, the Daily Mail reported.
Her apartment was ransacked, and her 40-inch television, laptop and cell phone were stolen, police said.
Anton’s body was discovered inside her home on Tuesday.
She was still tied up on her bed, and a rag had been stuffed inside her mouth.
Investigators said there were no signs of forced entry, and that Anton likely knew the killers, the Daily Mail reported.
Eight people were taken into custody in connection with Anton’s murder, to include a Haitian maintenance worker who was employed at her apartment complex, according to The Sun.
Anton had moved into the complex just two days before she was killed.
All eight of the people taken into custody have since been released due to a lack of connection with Anton’s murder, The Washington Post reported.
“I certify that the investigation is on track and that the tourism police and the national police investigation unit are putting all efforts to clear up what happened,” Dominican Tourism Police spokesperson Ramon Brito told the paper on Thursday.
Federal police said they received tips about the case from a neighbor, and that they have also been reviewing security camera footage from the area, the New York Post reported.
Anton was a U.S. citizen who had been working and living on the Caribbean island since 2014, WPBN reported.
She was the curriculum program director at the 3 Mariposas Montessori elementary school, which focuses on assisting impoverished young girls to develop skills to better enable them to avoid exploitation and living on the streets, according to the Daily Mail.
“She brings her love for children and dedication to making positive changes through education to our school,” her bio on the school’s website read.
Anton’s cousin, Adrianne Machina, said that the longtime teacher loved working in the Dominican Republic, WPBN reported.
"I can't imagine what kind of monster could do something like that to such a kind soul," Machina said. "She just loved building up the teachers there, building up the students and really making a difference in the Cabarete area.”
"I think if there's a lesson, she looked and said ‘how can I help,” Machina continued. “She really believed education was the path out of poverty.”
Prior to relocating to Cabarete, Anton also served as a legislative aide at the Michigan Capitol, and went on volunteer efforts to Matagorda and Guatemala City.
Eleven other Americans have died while on vacation in the Dominican Republic this year, which set off a panic about whether it was safe to visit the island and speculation about potentially tainted alcohol in hotel mini bars, ABC News reported.
The FBI became involved after it was revealed that three Americans had died in a five-day period in May.
On May 25, 41-year-old Miranda Schaup-Werner started feeling poorly and died in her hotel room two hours after she checked into the at Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville in San Pedro de Macoris, The Washington Post reported.
Schaup-Werner had a drink from her minibar before she collapsed.
A Maryland couple – 63-year-old Edward Holmes and 49-year-old Cynthia Day – checked into a sister resort, the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana, the same day that Schaup-Werner arrived and died, according to The Washington Post.
Five days later, on May 30, Holmes and Day were found dead in their hotel room at the resort adjacent to the one where Schaup-Werner died.
Autopsy results released by the Dominican government showed all three people suffered hemorrhaging, pulmonary edema, and enlarged hearts, The Washington Post reported.
On Oct. 18, the U.S. Department of State announced that Schaup-Werner, Day, and Holmes all died of natural causes, ABC News reported.
In the announcement, they said that Dominican authorities had sought assistance with the investigation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), ABC News reported.
“In this instance, the toxicology findings from the FBI were able to rule out several potential causes of death for Cynthia Day and Nathaniel Holmes, including methanol poisoning from tainted alcohol,” the State Department said in a written statement.
“The laboratory in Quantico and investigators in the Dominican Republic conducted thorough and time-consuming efforts, and none of the chemicals identified as possible toxins were found,” they said.
The State Department said FBI toxicology tests had determined that Schaup-Werner, Holmes, and Day had all died of the same natural causes, ABC News reported.
Those results were consistent with the findings of the authorities in the Dominican Republic.