A South Carolina man allegedly murdered his girlfriend, then died of a cardiac event while attempting to bury her body, police say.
According to local ABC affiliate WJBF, local authorities were called out to a home on Tanglewood Drive in Trenton on Saturday morning. When they arrived, they found the body of Joseph Anthony McKinnon, 60, in the back yard.
The coroner concluded that McKinnon had likely died of natural causes — what authorities called a “cardiac event” — and the investigation might have concluded there, but they found a second body buried in a recently-dug pit in the back yard.
The second body was identified as Patricia Ruth Dent, 65, who lived at the same address — and the coroner suspected foul play was the cause of her demise. Full autopsies later revealed that Dent had been a victim of strangulation and that McKinnon had died of a heart attack.
“On Saturday morning Deputies along with the Edgefield County Coroner’s Office, and Edgefield County EMS responded to 102 Tanglewood Drive in Trenton, South Carolina to a call of an unresponsive man lying in his yard,” said Sheriff Jody Rowland, who explained the scenario in a joint statement with Edgefield County Coroner David Burnett.
“Joseph Anthony McKinnon, 60, of the same address was found to be deceased in his yard. Mr. McKinnon had no signs of trauma and natural causes were suspected. While investigating the death and making notifications to the next of kin, a second body, was located in a freshly dug pit. Patricia Ruth Dent, 65, of the same address appeared to have died by foul play,” the statement continued.
“I would say a nightmare, and I want to wake up, and it’s a dream. I know it’s not. This is reality and life, and a big part of me is gone, and now I’m going to have to live with that,” Dent’s twin sister Pamela Briggs told reporters after confirming that Dent had been McKinnon’s live-in girlfriend. “Everybody who ever met her liked her. She was just full of energy. She was 65 and working.”
“Based on evidence gathered at the scene, and statements from witnesses, investigators believe Mr. McKinnon attacked Ms. Dent while inside their home,” WJBF reported. “McKinnon then allegedly bound her and wrapped her in trash bags before putting her in a pit he dug. While burying Ms. Dent in the pit, Mr. McKinnon had the cardiac event, causing him to die.”