Choking, Suffocating and Strangulating Charges in New South Wales


A disturbing incident involving a man in the United States who fatally strangled his girlfriend, only to be found dead himself shortly afterwards, has left a community in shock and widely conjured the old adage, “what goes around, comes around”.

Call it a case of karma, or just bad luck, the man at hand suffered a heart attack while burying his girlfriend whom he had just murdered.

According to police from South Carolina Sheriff’s Office, authorities were called to a home in the suburb of Trenton when neighbours spotted 60-year-old Joseph McKinnon lying in his garden without movement.

Paramedics were quickly called to the scene and upon arriving, attempted to revive the man utilising chest compressions.

However, despite their efforts, they could not bring the man back to consciousness and he was eventually declared dead.

While initially officers found no sign of foul play and suspected Mr McKinnon had died of natural causes, it was when they sought out his next of kin, listed as his girlfriend, 65-year-old Patricia Ruth Dent, that they discovered the woman’s body was also located on the property.

Her body had been thrown down in a shallow dirt pit.


How the Man Attempted to Dispose of His Girlfriend’s Body After Strangling Her to Death

It is understood Mr McKinnon dug a hole in the couple’s backyard before fatally strangling Ms Dent on the morning of Saturday 7th May 2022.

He then tied up her body and wrapped it in rubbish bags, before dumping her body in the dirt pit.

However, in the process of burying the corpse in dirt, the man experienced a cardiac arrest and died.

Autopsies were performed on both bodies, confirming Mr McKinnon’s cause of death as a heart attack, while, given the evidence gathered at the scene and witness statements, investigators believe that Ms Dent was killed inside the home they shared before her lifeless body was dragged outside.

Addressing the ominous incident, Edgefield County Sheriff, Jody Rowland, said their investigations of the yard and huge garden led them to discover blood that was confirmed to be that of Ms Dent.

“We continued to investigate the yard and this huge garden,” Sherriff Rowland said.

“The house had been freshly cleaned, but we were able to identify blood in the house that tested as hers.

“That took us back to the pit he was digging.”

Sherriff Rowland added that this was where they were able to locate Ms Dent’s body.

“We got down in the pit and started digging around,” she said.

“We uncovered it enough that we found black garbage bags.”

Ms Dent was found to have died by strangulation.

Strangulation, or choking, is considered one of the most destructive forms of domestic violence and its impacts on victims are staggering.

Beyond the physical blows of bruises, scratches, sore throat and inability to breathe or swallow, psychologically, strangulation tends to result in deep-seated trauma that sees the victim experience memory lapses, mood changes and even loss of hearing.

Moreover, as the aforementioned case highlights, worryingly, strangulation can even be fatal.


Choking, Suffocating and Strangulating Charges in New South Wales

What is Choke? To intentionally choke means to intentionally apply pressure to the neck so as to be capable of affecting the breath or flow of blood to or from the head. This is a broad offence intended to protect victims of domestic violence from controlling behaviours (section 71(1A) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW); GS v R; DPP (NSW) v GS [2022] NSWCCA 65).

It is against the law to choke or suffocate a person without their consent.

The crime, considered an act of domestic violence, is taken very seriously by the courts, and as such reflect harsh penalties.

If you are in NSW, the crime of choking, suffocation and strangulation is outlined in section 37 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW),with penalties for the offence determined according to the circumstances of the act.

Specifically, where a person intentionally chokes, suffocates or strangles another person without the other person’s consent, the maximum penalty is five years in jail.

Where a person intentionally chokes, suffocates or strangles another person, rendering the other person unconscious, insensible or incapable of resistance, and is reckless as to rendering the other person unconscious, insensible or incapable of resistance, the maximum penalty increases to 10 years in jail.

Additionally, where a person carries out the aforementioned, and does so with the intention of enabling themselves to commit, or assist any other person to commit, another indictable offence, the maximum penalty again increases, to 25 years in jail.

Indictable offences include stealing, kidnapping and assault. They are finalised in either the District Court or Supreme Court.

By Sahar Adatia.

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