Portage native in Nepal for earthquake relief beaten to death

Posted at 4:37 PM, Sep 07, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-07 16:37:55-04

A West Michigan native and former student of Portage Central High School, who went to Nepal to help in the aftermath of April’s devastating earthquake has been beaten to death, police said.

Dahlia Yehia, 25, arrived in Nepal on July 20 to serve in Pokhara, where she was killed by a teacher named Narayan Paudel, according to Hari Bahadur Pal, the Kaski District Police superintendent.

Police said Paudel confessed to beating Yehia to death, putting her body in a sack and dumping it in the river. Paudel, who met Yehia through a Couchsurfing website, said he killed her August 4, the superintendent said. Her body has not been recovered.

The site connects travelers with local hosts for accommodations.

Yehia attended Kalamazoo College and earned a bachelor’s degree in art, the college said in a statement.

“She was active in community service and interested in literature and mathematics,” the statement says.

Yehia, an art teacher, was backpacking through Nepal, according to the Facebook page of Sci-Tech Preparatory, a school in Austin, Texas, where she taught last year.

“The kids loved having her for their art teacher last year, especially the high school kids who went to the graffiti park downtown on city buses with their backpacks loaded with cans of spray paint!! We are all saddened by the loss of such a special spirit!” a post read.

People at the school are planning a memorial.

“Dahlia was an artist, art was pretty much an extension of her being,” her friend Meghan Moharter said. “She was incredibly talented.”

After the former art teacher appeared to be missing, her friends and family contacted the U.S. Embassy in Nepal. Local authorities launched an investigation.

On a Facebook page originally set up to “Find Dahlia,” her relatives said they had “received word from the US Embassy that Dahlia’s life has been taken from us.”

“We are devastated by this senseless loss of a beautiful life,” the page reads. “For those who haven’t had the joy of spending time with Dahlia, know that she is a giver, lover, and humanitarian, who devoted her life to others less fortunate both domestic and abroad.

“Even though Dahlia was taken from us much too soon, she surely made her mark on the world, and will be remembered lovingly by all of us.”

The family quoted the Quran: “Indeed we belong to God, and indeed to Him we will return.”

Yehia went to Nepal after the April 25 quake, which killed more than 8,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

Officials with Portage Central High School also released a statement Monday evening:

“The Portage Central High School staff and community is truly saddened by the loss of Dahlia Yehia. Dahlia represented what we might hope of all our students – she was an outstanding scholar, athlete and artist. She was a strong woman who desired to make the world a better place.  As a high school student she used part of her senior art project to inform people about the plight of child soldiers in Uganda – years before the issue gained national attention.  She continued humanitarian work throughout her life.  Though she will be greatly missed, she will continue to inspire us.”

This CNN Newsource story has been updated with local information from Kalamazoo College and Portage Public Schools.