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As his story goes, former soldier and reserve deputy Dwayne Thurman was cleaning his wife Brenda's designer model Glock .380 pistol when the gun went off, firing a round into Brenda's chest. Dwayne called 911, and Brenda was declared dead shortly after she arrived at the hospital.
But it's what happened in between the shooting and when emergency responders first arrived at the house that's the subject of two lawsuits filed by Brenda's children against the adoptive father. The lawsuits claim he did little, if anything, to save their mother's life.
The first of the two lawsuits claims wrongful death and related damages, both in Dwayne's handling of the gun, and his alleged lack of aid to his ailing wife. Brenda's daughter, Gabrielle, claims to have walked into the kitchen and found Dwayne on his knees holding her mother. When she asked him what happened, he simply told her, "A gun went off." The lawsuit claims it was Gabrielle who began CPR on her mother while Dwayne called 911. "After waiting several minutes for emergency responders to arrive," the suit alleges, "Gabrielle and Defendant carried Brenda Thurman to Gabrielle's car." According to the wrongful death suit, Dwayne never tried to "perform CPR on Brenda or attempt any other life-saving measures."
While the medical examiner ruled the shooting accidental, a criminal investigation remains open. No charges have been filed, and the family has lost patience with investigators, according to their attorney, Richard Wall. "All I know is they have been saying that for over a year," Wall said told the Spokesman-Review. "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."
Aside from failing to come to his wife's aid, the lawsuits point to a darker side of the Thurman's marriage. Allegedly, the two had experienced marital problems for about a year prior to the incident, and autopsy records obtained by the Spokesman-Review noted that Brenda had a "premortem bruising pattern suggestive of domestic violence." And just two weeks before the shooting Brenda told Dwayne she had saved $80,000 in her Veterans Affairs retirement account. Dwayne was listed as the primary beneficiary on the account in the event of Brenda's death.
The second lawsuit was filed under Washington's "Slayer Statue," which prevent slayers and abusers from benefiting financially from the death of their victims.