Patricia Anton, a U.S. citizen who lived in the Dominican Republic for the last several years, was found strangled to death last Tuesday in her apartment in Cabarete, a town on the northern coast of the island nation, the National Police said in a statement on Sunday.
The 63-year-old woman was found with her hands and feet bound together and several items were missing from her home, including a cellphone, laptop and television, police said.
The suspects were identified as Michael Marinez Rosario, Heuri Flores Hernandez, Junior Alexis Suarez, Juan Jose Andujar Mella, Oroniel Canario Montero and Alexis Maquey.
Police are searching for a seventh suspect who goes by the nickname “Eiden” and/or “The Venezuelan.” Police said all seven suspects traveled to Puerto Plata with the intention of committing crimes before they fled.
Investigators did not say how they connected the suspects to the woman’s death.
Police said four of the men have prior criminal records.
Anton moved to the island around 2013 and begin teaching at 3 Mariposas Montessori six years ago, the school confirmed to ABC News.
“Patty was not only a colleague of mine, but she was also my mentor and one of my best friends,” Sarah Ludwig-Ross, the founder and head of the school, told ABC News in a statement last week. “She was one of the most caring people I have ever met, always putting everyone else first.”
“She shared our belief that peace in the world can only come from getting close to and understanding people who are different from ourselves. … Patty loved each and every one of our children just as if they were her own,” she added.
Anton’s family described her as a loving woman who “was all about kindness and sweetness.”
“Her life was so much bigger than her death,” her cousin, Adrianne Machina, told ABC News on Thursday. “The Dominican Republic was her happy place. I think her dream was to retire down there. … The Dominican Republic really gave her purpose and peace.”
The family said it was working with officials at 3 Mariposas Montessori to erect a “peace park” in Anton’s honor.