In February 1986, Donald Bent phoned the cops to report his wife, Joan Bent, as missing. For the next 11-days, Bent played the role of a grief-stricken husband. There was just one big problem; he was the murderer.
A Fatal Fling follows the case of Joan Bent, who, from outward appearances, seemed to be one half of a perfect marriage to Donald Bent. However, on February 16, 1986, Donald strangled his wife and shoved her body into the trunk of a gold Chrysler sedan.
Bent told police in Watervliet, New York, that his wife had failed to return home from her job in Albany. He gave several interviews to local media playing the role of a devastated husband.
Donald Bent played the role of grieving husband
In one interview, Bent said, “She’s my whole life. She has been for years. I don’t survive or exist well without her. She is my entire life.”
Joan Bent’s body was discovered 11-days after she went missing in the Chrysler sedan, which was parked outside a hotel.
Bent told police that he and his wife had shared a meal before she left for work. A medical examiner discovered that Joan had not digested the meal properly, indicating she’d been killed immediately afterward. This evidence helped to prosecute Bent.
At his trial, Bent maintained his innocence, arguing that the prosecution was pursuing a vendetta against him. “I have been sodomized by the system,” he said, adding, “I did not kill my wife.”
Bent admits to the murder
However, years later, while still behind bars, Bent admitted to his daughter that he had killed Joan. In 2015 Dawn Bent, who had long suspected her father was guilty of murder, asked him outright if he had done it. “I said the $64 million question Dad, we all want to know, did you do it?” He responded with, “Yes, I did.”
Donald Bent became eligible for parole in 2011, he was denied a release four times before the board finally relented in 2018, and he walked out of prison a free man in August of that year at 86-years-old.
On his release, Joan’s daughter from a previous marriage, Lauren Devaren, was quoted as saying, “Whatever. Hope he rots in hell.”
The motive for killing his wife remains unclear, but Joan is thought to have filed divorce papers.
More Valentine horrors
Follow the links to read about more horrific Valentine murders, such as the case of Roy Clifton Swafford, who murdered Diane Markland after she had attended a Valentine’s day date. Or the mysterious case of Patricia Viola, who disappeared from Bogota, New Jersey the day before Valentine’s day in 2001.
Watch A Fatal Fling at 8/7c on Investigation Discovery.