A man accused of strangling his girlfriend to death has died of a heart attack while burying her body in their back garden, investigators in the US have said.
Joseph McKinnon, 60, was found dead at his home in Trenton, South Carolina at around 10am on Saturday after neighbours reported an unconscious man.
Officers from the Edgefield County Sherriff’s Office found a body wrapped in rubbish bags in a freshly dug hole and determined it was his girlfriend Patricia Dent, investigators said.
A post-mortem examination on Ms Dent, 65, found she had been strangled.
The Sherriff’s Office added: “Mr McKinnon then bound her and wrapped her in trash bags before putting her in the previously dug pit.”
Authorities said a post-mortem examination on Mr McKinnon determined he died of a heart attack.
Edgefield County Sheriff Jody Rowland and coroner David Burnett said: “The cause of death for Mr McKinnon was confirmed to be a cardiac event. Ms Dent was found to have died by strangulation.
“Evidence gathered at the scene, along with statements from witnesses aided investigators to build a timeline, [led] us to believe that Mr McKinnon attacked Ms Dent while inside their home.
“The pit was then partially filled in by Mr McKinnon. While covering the pit, Mr McKinnon had the cardiac event, causing his death.”
Ms Dent’s twin sister Pamela Briggs said she was “shocked” and “didn’t see any of this coming”.
She told Fox: “Everybody who ever met her liked her. She was just full of energy. She was 65 and working.
“I would say a nightmare, and I want to wake up, and it’s a dream. I know it’s not. This is reality and life, and a big part of me is gone, and now I’m going to have to live with that.”