Police in Chile are investigating the murder of a young American woman who moved to the South American country in July to teach high school students English, driven in her mission to help “people in need.”
Erica Faith Hagan, 22, showed signs she had been struck in the head three times with a sharp object, a local prosecutor said. She was found Saturday morning in her apartment bathroom on the grounds of Colegio Bautista, a Baptist secondary school in Temuco, Chile’s fourth-largest city about 415 miles south of Santiago.
An autopsy will determine if she had been sexually assaulted. EFE reported that police found partially burned blankets in the apartment, suggesting that the killer may have set a fire to destroy evidence.
“At this point we do not dismiss any hypothesis,” prosecutor Cristian Paredes told the news service. “As of today we consider this a homicide.”
News of Hagan’s death stunned students and faculty at Georgetown College, a small Christian liberal arts school in Kentucky. She had graduated in June with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in Spanish.
“There is a lot of grief here,” her psychology professor, Jay Castaneda, told FoxNews.com Monday. “It’s definitely affected our campus.”
Castaneda said Hagan was a very lively person.
“What I remember most is her smile, a very bright smile, and she had a lot of energy,” Castaneda said. “She was driven to service, to work in other countries and to help people in need.”
Jeremiah Tudor, an admissions official, said Hagan was a “bubble of energy” who had visited Chile once before. That was three years ago, when she went with classmates to do missionary work. “She was very strong in her faith,” he told FoxNews.com.
College officials said Hagan’s father was on his way to Chile, while her aunt spoke to a local station in Kentucky.
“This was a phenomenal, well-loved young lady that deserved better,” Hagan’s aunt, Charlene Martin, told WSIL-TV. “She had so much potential and she was going places in her life. I was so proud of that young lady. So proud.”
Hagan attended high school in Kentucky and was valedictorian when she graduated. She arrived in Chile July 27 and blogged that she was almost denied entry because of a visa mix-up.
She said she took the offer to teach in Chile because going right to graduate school seemed a “daunting task.” She wrote that she was teaching English to two to six students at a time. She took the job for a semester and planned to return to Kentucky in December.
Hagan wrote a second blog that she posted Friday afternoon, the day before her body was found. She blogged about how friendly Chileans were to her.
“God has blessed me with many people here that care how I spend my time and don’t want me to be lonely when I’m here,” she said. “Every day I meet more people that invite me to be social with them and I love it! The hardest part is for me to take them up on it by asking them to keep me company during my free time.”
Colegio Bautista issued a statement in Spanish on its website that said it was suspending classes and campus activities while police investigated Hagan’s death.
Georgetown College spokesman Jim Allison said counselors were on the campus Monday to help students deal with their grief.
“It’s a sad day for sure,” he said.