Friends, family mourn American artist beaten to death in Nepal

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Story highlights

  • Dahlia Yehia, 25, remembered for her artistic nature
  • A man confessed to killing her, police in Nepal say
  • Family posts, "We are devastated by this senseless loss of a beautiful life"

(CNN)Dahlia Yehia was an artist, a teacher and a searcher, describing herself like this on her blog, The Tea Devourer: "I still haven't found what I'm looking for, and that's how I want it to be for a while."

A few months ago she traveled to Nepal to backpack and help in the aftermath of April's devastating earthquake.
Yehia, 25, arrived July 20 and kept in touch with home through social media. When she didn't contact anybody after a WhatsApp message on August 6, her family and friends became worried, according to the "Finding Dahlia" Facebook page her family and friends started to help find her.
    Last week, the family received the news they feared from the U.S. Embassy. Yehia was dead.
    Kaski District Police Superintendent Hari Bahadur Pal said a man hosting Yehia in his home confessed to beating her to death and dumping her body in a river. The man met Yehia through couchsurfing.com, a website that connects local hosts with travelers, Voice of America News reported.
    After being arrested on September 4, the suspect, Narayan Paudel, tried to kill himself by jumping out a police station window, police said.
    Authorities are still searching for Yehia's body. They haven't offered a motive yet.

    'She was incredibly talented'

    Yehia was remembered for her questioning spirit and artistic nature.
    "Dahlia was an artist, art was pretty much an extension of her being," her friend Meghan Moharter said. "She was incredibly talented."
    Yehia attended Kalamazoo College in Michigan and received a bachelor of fine arts in painting, her LinkedIn page says. She studied abroad in Ecuador, the college said in a press release. After graduation, she set out from Michigan for Phoenix, recounting the trip in her blog, where she also posted her artwork.
    "It was a 36-hour drive through snowstorms, mountains and beautiful landscapes. The trip was pretty terrifying -- the longest I'd ever driven at one time was six hours, I didn't know anybody where I was going, and to say that I'm awkward and shy is the understatement of the year but this trip was just what I needed to feel like the last four years of college was good for something -- cause God knows the job market wasn't helping with that."
    She found a house to share with two women in Phoenix through a Craigslist ad, the blog said. LinkedIn says she was employed in Phoenix as a woodworker, youth care worker and K-8 art teacher for about two years.
    She next took a job as a youth worker in Boston for a year and taught art at Sci-Tech Preparatory in Austin, Texas, LinkedIn says.
    The Facebook page for the school says, "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!"

    'We are devastated'

    Questions remain about what happened in Nepal, the Himalayan nation devastated by an earthquake that killed at least 8,000 people. The nation is heavily reliant on tourist dollars and is known to be open and friendly to travelers.
    Yehia was heading to Pokhara, Nepal's second largest city.
    "She had just left a group of traveling companions to travel on her own to Pokhara," the Finding Dahlia Facebook page said. "Dahlia kept in regular contact with friends and family for the entirety of her trip up until this point. She had also received treatment for a rash while in Thailand and mentioned that the rash had reappeared on August 6."
    A police report was filed and police checked every hospital in the area. The State Department, U.S. Embassy and aid organizations were contacted.
    "We are devastated by this senseless loss of a beautiful life," the Facebook page says. "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 post ends with a quote from the Quran: "Indeed we belong to God, and indeed to Him we will return."