Man dies of heart attack while burying murdered girlfriend's body

A 60-year-old man in South Carolina who is suspected of strangling his 65-year-old girlfriend tried to hide the gruesome crime by burying her in his backyard. But before he could finish the job he was found dead at the scene, according to NPR, having suffered a heart attack while filling in the grave.

Investigators were already searching for the woman, Patricia Ruth Dent, and had already been to her house once, where they picked up her wallet. But it wasn't until a neighbor noticed the man, Joseph McKinnon, lying lifeless in the backyard, that the investigators returned and discovered his body. They then took a closer look at the pit he had been filling in and discovered her body as well.

From NPR:

Local sheriff's deputies and paramedics say they were initially called to the house in Trenton, S.C., after receiving a report of an unresponsive man lying in his yard. …

While investigators believed McKinnon may have died of natural causes, they immediately suspected foul play in Dent's death. That scenario was confirmed this week by the coroner, whose autopsy report found that McKinnon had suffered a cardiac arrest and Dent had been strangled.

"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 sent to NPR.

"Mr. McKinnon then bound her and wrapped her in trash bags before putting her in the previously dug pit," the statement said. "The pit was then partially filled in by Mr. McKinnon. While covering the pit, Mr. McKinnon had the cardiac event, causing his death."