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South Carolina Man Dies Of Heart Attack While Concealing Body Of Girlfriend He Murdered

Joseph McKinnon was found dead of a heart attack near a pit he'd dug in his South Carolina backyard. Police then found the body of his girlfriend, Patricia Dent, in the half-filled hole.

By Megan Carpentier
A personal photo of Patricia Dent

A South Carolina man reportedly died while attempting to conceal the body of the girlfriend he'd just murdered.

Officers from the Edgefield County Sheriff's Department in South Carolina responded to a 911 call at about 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning about an "unresponsive man" laying in the yard of his Trenton home — about 25 miles north of Augusta, Georgia — as reported by Augusta ABC affiliate WJBF. The person who called 911 did attempt to perform chest compressions, according to Augusta CBS/NBC affiliates WRDW/WAGT.

There, officers found Joseph McKinnon, 60, dead in his yard. 

"Mr. McKinnon had no signs of trauma and natural causes were suspected," Edgefield County Sheriff Jody Rowland and Edgefield County Coroner David Burnett wrote in a joint statement obtained by WJBF.

But, they added, "While investigating the death and making notifications to the next of kin, a second body was located in a freshly dug pit."

The body was that of McKinnon's live-in girlfriend, Patricia Dent, 65.

"On Monday, autopsies were performed on both bodies, and the cause of death for Mr. McKinnon was confirmed to be a cardiac event," the sheriff and coroner said. "Ms. Dent was found to have died by strangulation."

Police believe that McKinnon strangled Dent in the home they shared, bound her body and wrapped it in plastic trash bags, according to WJBF.

They say that McKinnon then placed her body in a pit he had previously dug and had begun refilling the hole when he experienced the heart attack, according to WJBF and WRDW/WAGT. He reportedly set the shovel down and attempted to walk away but collapsed and died.

Dent's twin sister, Pamela Briggs, said on Facebook that her family was notified on Saturday afternoon.

"My life is now forever changed," Briggs wrote, adding on Sunday, "What am I going to do without her? I’m so broken. I loved my twin with my everything."

An employee at the Mount Vintage Golf Club in North Augusta, South Carolina told St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV that Dent had been scheduled to work on Saturday but hadn't shown up.

They'd tried contacting her sister, Briggs, according to WRDW/WAGT.

“She wanted to know if I knew where my sister was, and I said, ‘No, I have no idea,’” Briggs told the station. "And then it just started to play out from there."

“I’m shocked. I didn’t see any of this coming,” Briggs told KMOV. “Everybody who ever met her liked her. She was just full of energy and working at 65.”

“I would say a nightmare, and I want to wake up, and it’s a dream. I know it’s not," she told WRDW/WAGT. "This is reality and life, and a big part of me is gone, and now I’m going to have to live with that."