KOH RONG – Police in Cambodia are investigating the slaying of a California woman Katherine Ann Grgich, who was vacationing on the tropical island of Koh Rong in September, according to the woman’s family.
Katherine Ann Grgich, 55, a massage therapist from Palm Springs, was found dead on Oct. 1 near the resort where she was staying.
Grgich had gone missing a few days beforehand, leaving her luggage in her hotel room at Island Palace Bungalow without explanation. Her body was found along a trail that snaked through the jungle close to the resort, launching a police investigation.
“At first, they claimed it was a natural death,” said Grgich’s father, George Grgich, 82, of Santa Barbara. “We insisted they look into it, and police cooperated. … They revised it, saying she must have been attacked from behind because there were cuts on the back of her head.”
Cambodian law enforcement officials have a suspect in the case but have not released the suspect’s identity. Investigators found some of the victim’s belongings in the suspect’s house, George Grgich said.
Since his daughter’s death, Grgich has received regular updates on the investigation from the Cambodian Embassy in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh.
Katherine Grgich worked as a part-time masseuse at Salon 119 & Day Spa in Palm Springs. She had more than 30 years of massage experience, working previously in Hawaii and Hollywood, said Nikki Roman, owner of the spa.
Grgich left Palm Springs for Asia in late August or early September, Roman said. She had planned to go to Thailand to seek medical attention for a foot problem, Roman said.
“I said to her, ‘Are you sure you want to be traipsing off to a country like that all by yourself?’ ” Roman said. “And she said ‘I’ll be fine. I’ll be gone about a month.’ And that is all there was to it.”
It is unclear if Grgich went to Thailand. Koh Rong is a 30-square-mile island off the southeast coast of Cambodia. The island is a budding tourism destination, mostly covered in unspoiled rainforest, that caters to outdoor enthusiasts and scuba divers.
The spa in Palm Springs had expected Grgich to return to work in early October.
“I never thought in a million years something would happen to her there, even though I’m the one who told her she shouldn’t go there alone,” Roman said.
State Department officials in Washington, D.C., did not respond to a request for comment about Grgich’s death.
John Simmons, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia, said he would provide information about the death at a later date.
Police in Cambodia could not be reached for more details.