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Georgia Dentist Stages Murder of Former Girlfriend and Wife As Suicides
When Dolly Hearn rejected her boyfriend Bart Corbin’s marriage proposal, she wound up dead. Fourteen years later, his wife died in a similar manner — a gunshot wound to the head.
Murders A-Z is a collection of true crime stories that take an in-depth look at both little-known and infamous murders throughout history.
At around 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 4, 2004, a 911 dispatcher in Gwinnett County, Georgia, received a frantic call from Kelly Comeau, who was reporting the death of her neighbor, 33-year-old Jennifer Corbin.
Kelly and her husband, Steve Comeau, had woken up to Jennifer’s 7-year-old son, Dalton, knocking on their front door. He told them that something was wrong with his mom, and Kelly ran next door to check on Jennifer.
In the master bedroom, Kelly discovered Jennifer lying dead in her bed from a gunshot wound to the back of her head. First responders arrived at the scene and found a .38 caliber pistol tucked into the bedding and an almost empty glass of wine next to a bottle on the nightstand.
Underneath her shoulder was a stack of documents containing a filing for divorce from her husband of eight years, dentist Barton “Bart” Corbin, who had gone out with friends the night before and had not yet returned home.
“There’s evidence ... to suggest that she was so distraught that she shot herself,” Gwinnett County homicide investigator Marcus Head told “A Wedding and a Murder,” airing Thursdays at 9/8c on Oxygen.
Still, certain aspects of the crime scene appeared to discount the theory that Jennifer had died by suicide.
“There were some things that looked a little unusual — things like the location of the firearm, the position of her body and the comforter and the bedding as it was laying on top of her,” Head said.
Head also found it hard to believe a mother would take her own life with her two children in the house, and when authorities reviewed the 911 call, it catapulted the investigation into an entirely new direction.
“I woke up and I went into my mom’s room, and then I couldn’t wake her up like she wanted,” Dalton told the 911 operator. “And then I saw a gun right by her … She might be dead.”
When the operator asked Dalton if he remembered anyone being at the home the previous evening, he said his dad was at their house.
“He’s the one who killed my mom,” Dalton said.
Police quickly tracked down Bart’s whereabouts, and when they reached him at his brother’s house, his brother said Bart had been out drinking and that he had slept it off at his place.
Bart's brother and the people he was out with, however, refused to sit down with police and give statements, according to Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter.
Police then requested Bart’s appearance at the station for an interview, and he arrived with an attorney in tow.
“My first impression of him was that he was quiet. He did not seem to be emotionally impacted by his wife’s death,” Head said.
Investigators observed no blood or bodily fluids on Bart’s clothing, and he had sustained no physical confrontation or defensive wounds. A gunshot residue test was conducted on Bart’s hands, and it came back negative.
Although Bart declined to provide any information about his wife’s death, a child crimes investigator interviewed Dalton, who admitted he had not actually seen his dad shoot his mom, according to “A Wedding and a Murder.”
The investigator determined Dalton had formed “that opinion based on some of the domestic problems and some of the arguing within the household,” Head said.
With little to go on, police enlisted ATF to execute a gun trace on the firearm found in Jennifer’s bed, which revealed the pistol had been sold at a Birmingham, Alabama hardware store in the mid-1950s.
Investigators then interviewed the Comeaus. Steven told police he heard something odd the night of Jennifer’s death. Around 1:30 a.m., Bart’s truck pulled up to the home and then drove off after about 30 minutes.
Bart’s return to the house aligned with Jennifer’s time of death, which the medical examiner estimated was between 2 and 3 a.m. The medical examiner found no alcohol in Jennifer’s system, dispelling the narrative that she had died by suicide after a night of drinking.
The autopsy established the path of the bullet had severed Jennifer’s brain stem, resulting in the loss of all motor function.
“She would not have been able to put the gun underneath the comforter. It was located contrary to where gravity would have placed it,” Head said.
When the gunshot residue test that was conducted on Jennifer’s hand came back negative, the forensic pathologist ruled that her death a homicide.
While investigators were building their case against Bart, Head received a call from a woman who claimed her daughter had attended dental school at the same time as Bart. She informed Head that Bart’s girlfriend at the time, student Dolly Hearn, had died by suicide under unusual — and very similar — circumstances.
On June 6, 1990, Hearn was found dead in her Augusta, Georgia, apartment with a firearm in her lap. She had sustained a single gunshot wound to the head in an “apparent suicide” — shortly after rejecting a marriage proposal from Bart.
Stunned by the similarities between Hearn and Jennifer’s deaths, Augusta investigators reopened the case, and a prior witness gave authorities a critical lead. On the day Hearn died, the witness saw a man in Hearn’s bathroom without a shirt, and the description matched Bart.
By reexamining the crime scene, a blood pattern analysis expert “made the determination that Dolly Hearn was not shot in the position that she was found,” Head said.
Investigators discovered that the gun had been wiped clean and placed between Hearn’s hands.
“The blood spatter expert was able to conclusively determine that Dolly’s body had been moved and the crime scene was staged. Her death was not a suicide. Her death was the result of the actions of a person,” Gwinnett County Assistant District Attorney Parks White told “A Wedding and a Murder.”
As the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office prepared to indict Bart for Hearn’s slaying, investigators from Gwinnett County learned Bart might have had a similar motive for killing Jennifer: rejection.
In spring 2004, Jennifer started an online relationship with someone going by the name “Chris Hearn” (unrelated to Dolly Hearn). Through a series of messages, Jennifer shared how unhappy she was in her marriage and that she was planning on leaving Bart.
Bart later discovered printouts of his wife’s correspondence with “Chris” and went ballistic, according to “A Wedding and a Murder.”
“When Bart saw that the last name of the person that Jen was corresponding with was Hearn, I think he thought that it was the Hearn family, and somehow they were about to tell Jen that Bart killed Dolly,” said WSB investigative reporter Dale Cardwell.
The evening Bart found out about the affair, he slapped Jennifer in front of her two sons.
“This put the family on notice that this marriage is pretty much over. The only reason she was still there is because she feared that he would try to take the kids,” said Cardwell.
With the mounting evidence against Bart, Porter drew up the murder indictment and subpoenaed all the people who were with Bart the night of Jennifer’s murder. His friends confirmed they had met up for dinner and drinks, but said that Bart left early to go to his brother’s house.
Bart’s brother said Bart arrived around 3:30 a.m., and the time gap between Bart leaving the bar and getting to his brother’s house was consistent with Jennifer’s time of death.
On Dec. 22, 2004, Bart was arrested for Hearn’s murder.
Gwinnett investigators then did a forensic analysis of his cell phone, which showed that his phone pinged a tower near his home around 1:45 a.m. This correlated with the time his neighbor heard his truck pull up.
Bart was charged with his wife’s murder on Jan. 5, 2005.
Right before going to trial for Jennifer’s slaying, investigators uncovered cell phone evidence that determined Bart had driven to Troy, Alabama about a week before the murder. They found out a family friend, Richard Wilson, lived in Troy, and Wilson told police he had given the murder weapon to Bart.
In exchange for two concurrent life sentences, Bart pleaded guilty to two counts of malice murder, reported NBC News.
To learn more about the case, watch “A Wedding and a Murder” on Oxygen.