Who Killed Joan Bent? Here’s What Lead to Her Grisly 1986 Murder

Studies show that you’re much more likely to be murdered by someone you know, but it’s hard to figure out who the culprit is when several people in your inner circle may want to kill you. The strangling death of Joan Bent is the focus of multiple true crime shows, including Betrayed and HBO’s Autopsy.

Joan was the “perfect” wife, businesswoman, and friend… she had it all. But things started ripping at the seams shortly before the 47-year-old’s death. Her husband, Donald H. Bent, was allegedly having an affair with a woman named Anne, who was renting a room in their home. She confronted Anne and made her move out while contemplating a divorce. Donald also struggled to hold down a job while she made payments on his past embezzlement charges.


Joan Bent

Then there’s the fact that she was allegedly having an affair of her own with an old friend named Ed Zimmer. Plus, she was the cleaning staff manager at a local hotel. This job involved firing a lot of incompetent people, many of whom would get angry and often threaten her. Not to mention, a creepy construction guy had been working at her home for weeks, and making her feel very uncomfortable as she resisted his advances. So, which of these people wanted her dead?

Don reported her missing, claiming they ate dinner together before she went to work and never came home. Joan was found 11 days after her disappearance in the trunk of her snow-covered car: dead, frozen, and strangled. It was actually that dinner that convicted her husband as the killer after a lengthy investigation. The contents of her stomach showed that she had been murdered right after eating.

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Donald Bent

Case docs state, “According to the People’s theory, [the] defendant was fearful that a divorce would leave him virtually penniless and unable to meet his obligation to pay restitution. He was particularly upset over the thought of receiving nothing for the work and money he had expended on the house owned by his wife. The People also presented proof that [the] defendant believed he was the sole beneficiary under his wife’s will.” He was sentenced to 25 years to life in 1987, but has maintained his innocence, saying “the system sodomized” him. Talk about a sucky marriage.

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