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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Brenda Thurman’s quest to fix marriage ended in her death

Dwayne Thurman leaves the courtroom after a hearing last year. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Dwayne Thurman leaves the courtroom after a hearing last year. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

After hearing the shot, Brenda Thurman’s daughter ran into her kitchen on Jan. 18, 2016, to find her adoptive father standing over her mother.

“What did you do?”

Dwayne Thurman, a reserve Lincoln County deputy and gun enthusiast, said he was cleaning the gun and “it went off.”

Brenda had a bullet hole in the front of her neck near the top of her chest. The bullet drove downward and severed her aorta. Her eyes were open. She didn’t speak as she gasped for air. Dwayne Thurman told his daughter, Gabrielle Corriette, to call 911.

The daughter told Dwayne Thurman, 44, to start life-saving efforts and ran to her bedroom, but her phone was dead.

Gabrielle yelled to her friend, who was staying over that night, to call 911. Gabrielle ran back to the kitchen and checked her mother’s neck to see if she had a pulse.

“She told Brenda to stay strong,” court records state. “She also told Brenda that he (Dwayne) was not going to get away with this because she was not going to let him.”

The dramatic end to Brenda Thurman’s life is contained in 236 pages of investigative files obtained by The Spokesman-Review. The investigation, which led prosecutors in June to charge Dwayne Thurman with first-degree manslaughter, describes a mother struggling to save an 18-year marriage and a husband who likes to flirt with women at work.

The files show that, at the time of his wife’s death, Dwayne Thurman was having an affair with a fellow Veterans Administration employee. His lover was living with another woman who worked with the late Dr. John Marshall, a former chief surgeon at the Mann-Grandstaff Veterans Affairs Medical Center, whose body was found on Jan. 26, 2016 – eight days after Brenda Thurman’s death – in the Spokane River just downstream from the Monroe Street Bridge. Marshall’s death remains a mystery.

While that tip was sent to Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Mike Drapeau, the report on Brenda Thurman’s death does not indicate whether he acted on that information. Detectives otherwise wrote that they could find no link between the killing of Brenda Thurman and the death of Marshall.

Drapeau did not return calls seeking comment. Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Mark Gregory said Drapeau was investigating a new homicide Friday in Airway Heights. Gregory said the sheriff’s office would have no comment about any aspect of the Thurman investigative files because the charges remain pending.

Dwayne Thurman’s defense attorney, Carl Oreskovich, has previously said the shooting death was a tragic accident. Oreskovich on Friday said he had not seen the investigative files and also declined to comment on any aspect of them.

Uncontrollably shaking

Unwilling to wait for an ambulance after the shooting, Dwayne Thurman and Gabrielle Corriette loaded Brenda into their car and raced, eventually with a deputy escort, to Valley Hospital.

Deputy Jerad Kiehn arrived there to find Dwayne Thurman emotionally distraught.

“He was sobbing, rocking forward and at one point vomited into the sink. Dwayne repeatedly said he wanted to know how his wife was and yelled at me to find out,” Kiehn wrote. “I asked Dwayne what happened and he started sobbing and saying, ‘It’s my fault, I’m an idiot. The gun just went off.’ ”

Detective Kirk Keyser arrived to handle the main interrogation, but struggled to interview Thurman.

“Dwayne was uncontrollably shaking, crying and had large amounts of mucus flowing from his nose covering his face and neck,” Keyser wrote. “He was clearly very emotionally distraught and was shaking and panting. I conducted a interview with Dwayne to the best of his and my ability due to the circumstances.”

Thurman said both he and his wife had been involved in extramarital affairs.

During the questioning, Thurman’s phone rang. It was his lover, a fellow employee at the VA.

Thurman told the woman that “something bad had happened and that police would have his phone,” records state. Thurman “indicated that the police would know what was going on.”

Thurman’s lover, who also texted with Thurman several times on the day of Brenda Thurman’s shooting, answered her phone on Friday and confirmed her identity, but quickly ended the call when she learned it was from a reporter.

Keyser interviewed Thurman’s lover after leaving the hospital on Jan. 18, 2016. She said she worked with Thurman at the VA’s homeless outreach center, where Thurman continues to work despite facing manslaughter charges. She said they had been together since about May 2015.

“We asked if she thought (Thurman) was doing anything to leave his marriage and she said no and definitely did not think he would intentionally ever hurt his wife by shooting her,” Keyser wote. “I asked when she and Dwayne met. She said they would meet under the Maple (Street) bridge at I-90 before or after work and just talk.”

Mother confides

Gabrielle, who changed her last name after the shooting from Thurman to Corriette, told Drapeau that her mother had struggled to keep her marriage going with Thurman, whom she had met while serving in the U.S. Army.

“Gabrielle said she heard on the news that Brenda had an extra-martial affair and she knows this is not true,” Drapeau wrote.

The daughter, who has filed a civil wrongful death suit against Dwayne Thurman, said she spoke to her mother about her marriage for hours just two days before her death.

Brenda, 43, told her daughter that Dwayne Thurman previously had flirted with a woman he hired while working at Spokane Falls Community College.

“The two had a ‘huge fight about it,’ ” she told Drapeau. “Brenda asked Dwayne to quit seeing this woman and Dwayne refused.”

Corriette also said Brenda and Dwayne had a mutual friend they called “Franco.” She said Dwayne Thurman suspected that Brenda had an affair with him, but Brenda denied it. Franco was found hanging in his hotel room some seven years ago in the Tri-Cities, and the death was believed to be a suicide, according to court records.

Brenda Thurman also told her daughter of another woman that Dwayne Thurman said was spreading rumors that he had slept with her, which he denied.

“Brenda told Dwayne to just take care of it and make it go away,” Corriette told Drapeau.

‘I will end you’

Private investigator Ted Pulver earlier this year found the woman whom Brenda told Dwayne to make go away.

Pulver called a meeting between Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell and other law-enforcement officials to arrange a way for Thurman’s former lover to be interviewed under the agreement that she be granted a protective order from the suspect.

The woman, contacted Friday by The Spokesman-Review, said she spoke in June with Detective Drapeau. But the investigator told the woman that she didn’t need a protective order because he didn’t plan to use her information in the manslaughter case against Thurman.

The newspaper agreed not to name the woman out of respect for her safety concerns.

The woman said she met Thurman years ago before he worked at the VA.

“There was always casual flirtation, which was inappropriate on my part,” the woman said. “That happened for about a year.”

After several innocuous interactions, the woman and Thurman finally got serious with their relationship one weekend in 2012 when Brenda Thurman left town.

“I believe it was like four or five months later and my husband found out,” the woman said. She informed Dwayne Thurman about the discovery. “I said it’s only fair that you know so if Brenda finds out.”

A week after a series of contentious discussions, Dwayne Thurman invited the woman into a room to discuss the situation.

“I thought he was going to apologize. He shuts the door, pushes me against the wall and holds me by the chest with his hand. He said, ‘If you say another goddamned word, I will ruin you. I will end you.’ ”

As a result of their affair, the woman’s marriage crumbled. Then news hit last year of Brenda Thurman’s shooting death.

“My initial reaction was: It should have been him. She was a good mom, an incredible person,” the woman said. “Part of the whole rush was that he was picking me when he had this incredible woman in his life.

“I felt like a horrible human being for what I did,” the woman continued. “I’ve spent many years working through it.”

Final plea

Not long before she was killed, Brenda Thurman reached out to Dwayne to fix their troubled marriage. She sent Corriette a copy of a message she sent her husband asking him to enter marriage counseling.

“You stated to me that ‘You are not happy. You want to be a happy guy again.’ Well, that’s not going to happen magically. It’s going to take introspection, communication, and commitment to change,” Brenda Thurman wrote. “I want repair. I want healing. I want to know my marriage is solid. I’m taking action in my own way. I’m a good person and I deserve to be happy too.”

According to court records, Dwayne Thurman did not respond.

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