US man dies while burying woman he strangled

Autopsy determines South Carolina man suffered a heart attack while filling woman's grave

A man died of a heart attack while burying a woman he had killed in his backyard, police said. EPA

A US man died of a “cardiac event” in his backyard in the state of South Carolina while burying a woman he had strangled, local authorities said.

Officials responded to reports of an unresponsive man in the town of Trenton and found 60-year-old Joseph McKinnon dead, Edgefield County Sheriff Jody Rowland and County Coroner David Burnett said in a statement carried by local media.

“McKinnon had no signs of trauma and natural causes were suspected,” the statement said.

“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.”

Dent was found bound and wrapped in trash bags in the pit.

Dent's neighbours told police they saw him digging a hole the day before he was found.

A postmortem on Dent determined she had been strangled and neighbours told officers they had seen McKinnon digging a hole in his yard the day before, police said.

Another postmortem on McKinnon determined he had died of a heart attack. Authorities said it appeared he was nearly done filling the grave when he set the shovel down, walked away and collapsed.

Evidence and witness statements indicated that McKinnon had attacked Dent in their home.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: May 12, 2022, 4:31 PM