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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Poetic Justice? South Carolina Man Drops Dead While Burying Girlfriend He Strangled

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Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.

When a neighbor in Trenton, South Carolina, found 60-year-old Joseph McKinnon unresponsive on the ground in his backyard, he had no idea the story that was about to be uncovered.

The neighbor performed CPR on McKinnon — to no avail — and called 911. When first responders arrived, McKinnon was confirmed dead.

But there was more. McKinnon lived at the home with his girlfriend, 65-year-old Patricia Dent, who hadn’t shown up for work.

There was also a suspicious, fresh hole in the backyard, and when authorities investigated, they found Dent’s body wrapped up in trash bags.

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“Evidence gathered at the scene, along with statements from witnesses aided investigators to build a timeline, leading us to believe that Mr. McKinnon attacked Ms. Dent while inside their home,” Sheriff Jody Rowland and Coroner David Burnett of Edgefield County said in a joint statement, according to NPR.

“Mr. McKinnon then bound her and wrapped her in trash bags before putting her in the previously dug pit. The pit was then partially filled in by Mr. McKinnon.

“While covering the pit, Mr. McKinnon had the cardiac event, causing his death.”

Based on the scene, it appeared that as McKinnon was backfilling the grave, he set down the shovel, walked a short distance away and collapsed after suffering a heart attack.

Dent’s twin sister, Pamela Briggs, was shocked at the news. She said she never would have suspected something like this would happen.

“I’m shocked,” she told WRDW-TV. “I didn’t see any of that coming.

“Everybody who ever met her liked her. She was just full of energy. She was 65 and working.”

Briggs said the whole thing has been a “nightmare.”

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“I want to wake up, and [find] it’s a dream,” she said. “But I know that it’s not … This is life, and a big part of me is gone, and now I’m going to have to learn to live with that.”

“Looks like we aren’t going to go down with out a fight sis,” she posted on Facebook.

“Your death is going viral. I know you would want me to share your story. People are going to remember you. I’m going to make sure. You did not die in vain. ‘SAY HER NAME, SAY HER NAME’ I’m so proud of you Patricia Vaughn Dent.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking