Home / National News / Panama Police Investigate US Woman's Unexplained Death as Family Prepares for NY Funeral


(NEW YORK) — As Panama authorities investigate the unexplained death of 23-year-old American Catherine Johannet, her family in New York is planning for her funeral on Saturday.

Johannet, a 2015 graduate of Columbia University and a frequent world traveler, was described by sister Laura as “adventurous” and fun-loving.

Johannet was in Panama last Thursday when she set off alone on a day hike to a small, nearby island named Bastimentos, police say. When Johannet didn’t return, she was reported missing.

A police officer found her body Sunday along a secluded hiking trail.

Panama authorities have opened an investigation but have not said how she died or whether there was foul play. The effort to find suspects was ongoing, police in Bocas del Toro, Panama, said Thursday.

“We found her on a trail. It’s not an official trail,” Alexis Bethancourt, Panama’s minister of public security, said in Spanish Thursday. “It’s a savage place where there is a lot of vegetation.

“In the late hours, it is very dark. It’s a place that presents a lot of risks and we’ve asked the people to not take these trails because there is a risk of becoming a victim.”

Johannet chose to visit Panama to “see nature and the sea, which is what her family told us she liked,” Bethancourt said. “And based on the images she decided to send her family, she was very happy in Panama.”

“What I’ve heard from her family, she was practically an angel,” Bethancourt added.

Sister Laura Johannet wrote on Facebook, “my family is thinking of all our beautiful memories with our laughing, adventurous, warm little girl. She was always there to listen to you and just enjoy life with her loved ones.”

Johannet’s funeral is in Scarsdale, New York, at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“For her many friends around the world who cannot make it for our beloved Cat’s memorial please light a candle for her at 11am,” Laura wrote on Facebook. “I know she would love that.”

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