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On September 15, 2006, four days into jury selection in his trial for the December 2004 murder of his wife, Georgia dentist Barton Corbin suddenly decided to plead guilty to killing Jennifer Corbin.
At the same time, he also pleaded guilty to the murder of his former girlfriend, Dorothy "Dolly" Hearn, in 1990, while he was in dental school. Corbin, 42, of Buford, Georgia, was sentenced to two life sentences to be served concurrently, with the possibility of parole.
Initially Ruled Suicides
Both women's deaths initially had been declared suicides. Jennifer Corbin was found in her home dead from a single gunshot wound. A handgun was found near her body. About 14 years earlier, Hearn had been found, also in her home, dead from a single gunshot wound, with a handgun in her lap. Hearn, 27, was a fellow dental school student of Corbin's at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.
Hearn's 1990 death was ruled a suicide, but after the death of Jennifer Corbin under similar circumstances, Hearn's case was reopened and Corbin was indicted for her murder two weeks later.
Flanked by his attorneys, Corbin showed no emotion as he stood with his hands clasped in front of him, responding to prosecutors with "yes" and "no" answers. About 80 family members and friends of Jennifer Corbin and Dolly Hearn filled the courtroom.
Gun Owner Identified
Prosecutors said Corbin decided to change his plea to guilty after investigators were able to link the gun used to kill Jennifer Corbin to a close friend of his. Richard Wilson told investigators that he gave the gun, a .38-caliber revolver, to Corbin a few days before Jennifer's death.
"The placement of the weapon in Barton Corbin's hands was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back," his attorney, Bruce Harvey, told reporters.
According to prosecutors, Corbin killed both women because he refused to believe that his romances with them had ended. Hearn and Corbin had dated for more than a year but were breaking up when her body was found. Jennifer Corbin's marriage to Barton Corbin was falling apart in 2004. He had filed for divorce and sued for custody of their sons five days before his 33-year-old wife was found dead.
Death Penalty Avoided
In taking the plea deal, Corbin escaped the possibility of receiving the death penalty in Richmond County, where he killed Hearn. Because the sentences run concurrently, Corbin could be eligible for parole in as few as 18 years, when he is 60. However, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said that based on the parole board's record, Corbin would probably not be considered for parole for 28 years.
As of October 2019, Corbin was serving his sentence at the Central State Prison in Macon, Georgia.
- "Dentist admits to murders of wife, girlfriend." NBC News.
- "Dentist gets life for killing two women." Gwinnett Daily Post.
- Georgia Department of Corrections.