Police in the Dominican Republic have arrested six men in connection with the strangulation death last week of a 63-year-old Michigan woman who’d moved to the island nation 15 years ago to work as a Montessori school teacher.
A seventh individual is being sought, according to a statement from the Dominican Republic National Police.
The arrests were announced Sunday, five days after the body of Patricia “Patty” Anton was found dead — bound and gagged, facedown on her bed — in her home in the district of Cabarete, in Puerto Plata.
Anton died of strangulation asphyxiation during a robbery of her home, according to police.
Several electronic items and other valuables, as well as clothing, were taken from the home.
The suspects were identified as Michael Marinez Rosario, Heuri Flores Hernandez, Junior Alexis Suarez, Juan Jose Andujar Mella, Oroniel Canario Montero and Alexis Maquey. Their ages were not available at press time.
A seventh suspect, known as “Eiden” as well as “The Venezuelan,” is still on the run.
According to the statement, police allege the men traveled to Puerto Plata “with the aim of committing crimes of such nature.”
Originally from Traverse City, Michigan, Anton was working at Mariposas Montessori, a private school where she’d recently been promoted from teacher to curriculum program director.
There were no signs of forced entry into Anton’s home.
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Four of the suspects have prior criminal records, police stated.
It was unclear what specific charges the detained men face. It was also unclear if they had entered pleas or have attorneys who could comment on their arrests.
‘She Felt Safe There,’ Says Cousin
Sarah Ludwig-Ross, the founder and head of the school where Anton worked, wrote in a statement to PEOPLE that “the children, parents, teachers and the community in general, are completely heartbroken over this loss.”
It continued: “Patty was not only a colleague of mine, but she was also my mentor and one of my best friends. She was one of the most caring people I have ever met, always putting everyone else first. Everyone at 3 Mariposas Montessori was blessed to have worked with her for 6 years — learning from her and laughing with her. She shared our belief that peace in the world can only come from getting close to and understanding people who are different from ourselves. That is why she gave her heart and soul to our school — because we work with children and families from all over the world and from ALL socio-economic backgrounds. Patty loved each and every one of our children just as if they were her own.”
Anton’s cousin, Adrianne Machina, told PEOPLE last week Patty had visited the Dominican Republic for years before realizing her lifelong dream of moving there once her own children were grown.
“She loved the Dominican Republic so much and the people,” said Machina. “She felt safe there, and she would help anybody. But she also knew how to hold her own — she wasn’t some doe-eyed girl who went there from the U.S. She was an amazing person.”