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Wrongful death suit claims Dwayne Thurman did not aid his dying wife after shooting her

UPDATED: Wed., April 5, 2017

The children of a Spokane Valley woman filed a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday against their adoptive father, raising new allegations in a shooting that a Spokane County medical examiner has ruled accidental.

Gabrielle Corriette and Michael Thurman accuse Dwayne Thurman, a former soldier and reserve Lincoln County deputy, of not trying to save their mom, Brenda Thurman, after admitting he shot her in the chest while he was working on a gun.

“After waiting several minutes for emergency responders to arrive, Gabrielle and Defendant carried Brenda Thurman to Gabrielle’s car,” the suit states. “At no time did Defendant perform CPR on Brenda or attempt any other life-saving measures.”

Dwayne Thurman told investigators on the day of the shooting that he was cleaning the designer model Glock .380 pistol that he recently had given his wife for her birthday when he accidentally fired a shot that struck Brenda Thurman in the chest and killed her.

According to the suit, Brenda Thurman’s daughter, Gabrielle, walked into the kitchen and found Dwayne Thurman on his knees holding her mother. She asked him what happened and he replied: “A gun went off.”

The daughter then began CPR on her mother as Brenda Thurman, 43, struggled to breathe. Dwayne Thurman called 911.

Spokane County sheriff’s detectives are investigating the shooting. That probe has stalled as investigators await test results to determine whether the Glock was functioning correctly, Deputy Mark Gregory said.

Despite the criminal investigation, attorney Richard Wall said the family was tired of waiting for it to wrap up.

“All I know is they have been saying that for over a year,” Wall said of the gun-testing results. “We would have preferred to wait until they did their investigation. But we felt at this point, it was time we needed to do something.”

Brenda and Dwayne Thurman worked for different offices of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Both previously served in the U.S. Army.

Dwayne Thurman continues to work in the VA’s downtown clinic for homeless veterans. Brenda Thurman was working in the Veterans Outreach Center in Spokane Valley when she was killed.

“Everyone was devastated by the loss of Brenda,” VA spokesman Bret Bowers said. “We still miss her. She made a remarkable, positive impact with the veterans she helped.”

Autopsy records recently sent anonymously to The Spokesman-Review indicate that Brenda Thurman had a “premortem bruising pattern suggestive of domestic violence.”

She had circular, purple bruises on her right shoulder, her left biceps and two bruises on her left thigh. Spokane County Medical Examiner Dr. Sally Aiken also noted that Thurman had three bruises, “all very vague,” near her right thigh.

Brenda Thurman also had bruises around her breasts, but Aiken noted those injuries “may be medically related” to efforts to revive her.

Aiken in February ruled the cause of the death as a gunshot to the chest. However, she ruled the manner of death as “accident.”

Ted Pulver, a private investigator hired to look into the case, said Aiken’s determination could be a legal impediment if sheriff’s detectives try to file criminal charges against Dwayne Thurman.

“It’s something that’s going to have to be dealt with between the prosecutor and the medical examiner,” Pulver said. “To base it on an accident because the shooter said it was an accident, is childish. I’m certain (Aiken) is going to have to change that or come up with something that is not written in the report.”

The suit was filed by Michael Thurman and Gabrielle, who recently changed her name back to her mother’s maiden name of Corriette. Contacted by The Spokesman-Review, Corriette declined to comment.

According to previously filed court records, Dwayne Thurman said that the day before the incident, the couple went to a shooting range. The next morning, Jan. 18, 2016, they went for breakfast and returned to their home at 14121 E. Sinto Ave. He started to clean the Glock to figure out why it wasn’t functioning properly.

“Brenda was nearby on her iPad electronic tablet researching the problem with the .380 Glock handguns when the .380 discharged striking Brenda in the chest” and mortally wounding her, Detective Mike Drapeau wrote.

Dwayne Thurman called 911 and responding deputies arrived just as he and Gabrielle were backing out of the driveway after loading Brenda Thurman into the car. They were on their way to Valley Hospital, where she was declared dead.

Deputies then entered the home to secure it for an investigation. They found gun-cleaning supplies on the kitchen table. They also “saw a mop bucket and mop near the kitchen table and noted that there was water on the floor near the mop bucket,” court records state. “Deputies saw no obvious blood staining in the residence.”

Dwayne Thurman told detectives that he and his wife were “both involved in extra marital affairs,” but the lawsuit suggests that only he had been involved. Efforts to reach Dwayne Thurman on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

According to the lawsuit, the couple had been having marital problems for at least a year prior to the shooting and Brenda Thurman had suggested they get marriage counseling.

Dwayne Thurman “did not respond to that suggestion or otherwise make any effort to resolve issues that had arisen during the marriage, including Brenda’s belief that Defendant had been engaged in extramarital affairs,” the suit states.

About two weeks prior to the shooting, the suite states, Brenda Thurman informed her husband that she had accumulated $80,000 in her VA retirement account, for which he was listed as the beneficiary upon her death.

Dwayne Thurman’s “act of pointing the pistol at Brenda Thurman when allegedly cleaning it as well as his failure to immediately call 9-1-1 or perform other potentially life-saving measures to aid Brenda Thurman after she had been shot constitutes gross negligence and was the direct and proximate cause” of her death, Wall wrote.

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