LOWELL -- The villagers warned him not to go. It was Feb. 3, 2001, the height of the Bolivian rainy season. Peace Corps volunteer Walter Poirier, working to boost eco-tourism in the South American nation's Zongo Valley, attended a community meeting in the small village of Coscapa, 11,500 feet above sea level and 26 miles north of the capital La Paz.
At the end of the meeting, the natives advised the 22-year-old American against heading up the steep, treacherous mountain pass in the torrential rain. The aqueduct trail, which in places drops 50 to 100 feet off the side of the mountain, would surely be flooded.
Investigators believe Poirier went anyway, headed toward the village of Liaullini, where there was a schoolhouse where he kept a sleeping bag.
"He had been gone for a month before anyone noticed he was gone," [Walter's father] says. "We had to notice; the Peace Corps had no clue. There was improper supervision."...
"My gut instinct was always that something bad happened," [fellow Peace Corps volunteer Lupine] Skelly says. "Wally did not feel safe there (in the Zongo Valley) and he asked a lot of questions. Maybe he asked the wrong questions of the wrong people."
In 2004, a 22-year-old Bolivian man told authorities that he was kidnapped by two employees at an electric plant after overhearing them say they had killed and buried Wally Poirier in a mountain pass. A formal complaint was filed, but the men were never charged.
In September 2007, then-Peace Corps Inspector General David Kotz led a 27-person expedition that included FBI agents and Rhode Island State Police cadaver-sniffing dogs. Bones and clothing were discovered, but did not match to Sheila Poirier's DNA.
"A lot of time had passed between when he had gone missing and that expedition," Walter Poirier says. "A few years earlier, torrential rains had washed everything off of the mountain. I would like to think he did fall; we would hate to think he died as the result of foul play."