The Washington, Ga., woman who killed herself Thursday in Columbus told a witness she was responsible for her husband's fatal shooting Saturday in the couple's east Georgia home, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said today.
The agency said Brenda Riddle Dent was to undergo a polygraph examination at the GBI's Columbus office at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, but shot herself in the head about 12:15 p.m. at the 8050 Beaver Run Road Chevron station across the street.
A Box Springs man found the 57-year-old woman in her truck in the Chevron parking lot about 12:45 p.m. with what appeared to be a head wound. He called Columbus police, who had firefighters force their way into the vehicle, where they found that Dent had a gunshot wound to the head, the bullet’s entry point at the underside of her jaw. Deputy Coroner Charles Newton pronounced her dead at 1:18 p.m.
"The initial discovery of her death immediately followed her disclosure to a witness in the investigation that she was responsible for the murder of her husband, Fermer C. 'Butch' Dent," the GBI reported this afternoon. "Following this statement, Brenda Dent apparently committed suicide."
Fermer Dent was a 63-year-old physician’s assistant found dead from a gunshot wound in home about 7 p.m. Sunday, said Wilkes County Sheriff Mark Moore. He said Dent’s wife reported finding the body.
Moore said Brenda Dent had a male friend whom the GBI also wanted to question about her husband’s shooting. He is under no suspicion in the wife’s death, but investigators in Washington still consider him a vital witness in the homicide case, said Moore, who declined to identify the man.
The sheriff said his office had considered Brenda Dent a person of interest in her husband’s homicide, and that’s why she was to be polygraphed.
Moore said he knew the couple well, and they had been married more than 20 years. He had heard of no friction in their relationship before this, he said.
The homicide case remains open, Moore said: “We still have some evidence to have analyzed. We still have some additional interviews and information to substantiate or verify. There may be some other people that we interview, some other documents we examine. The case is not closed. It’s still an active investigation.”
Moore said he has been in Wilkes County law enforcement for 38 years, and the county typically is a peaceful place that hadn’t had a homicide in “over 10 years” before this. “During my career, there have been lots of different serious cases, but we haven’t had this type of case in quite a long time,” he said.
He said Wilkes County is a short drive from both Athens and Augusta, so many residents commute to work in those cities. Fermer Dent had worked for 23 years at the Athens Orthopedic Clinic.
According to Beggs Funeral Home of Thomson, Ga., Fermer Dent, a 1967 graduate of Thomson High School, served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam, and as a physician's assistant later worked with Dr. Charles Wills Jr. at Wills Memorial Hospital.
His memorial Service will be 2 p.m., Saturday at the First United Methodist Church in Thomson. Contributions in his memory may go to the St. Mary’s Foundation, 1230 Baxter Street, Athens, Ga., 30606, or to the Wounded Warriors’ Project, 1190 Interstate Parkway, Augusta, Ga., 30909.