Jenn Corbin, a lovely, slim, brown-eyed blonde, appeared to have it all: two dear little boys, a posh home in one of the upscale suburbs of Atlanta, expensive cars, a plush houseboat, and a husband -- Dr. Bart Corbin, a successful dentist -- who was tall, handsome, and brilliant. But gradually their seemingly idyllic life together began to crumble. There was talk of seeing a marriage counselor. Bart was distraught; Jenn seemed disenchanted. She needed to reach out to someone she could confide in -- beyond her mother and her sisters. Then, just a few weeks before Christmas 2004, Jenn was found dead with a bullet in her head, a revolver beside her. From the position of the body her death appeared to be a suicide. But Gwinnett County detective Marcus Head was not totally convinced, nor was Jenn's family, who could not believe she would take her own life. And how was this death related to another apparent suicide fourteen years earlier -- that of Dorothy Dolly Hearn, a spectacularly beautiful dental student? A star athlete and homecoming queen in high school, Dolly later dated Bart Corbin in dental school. Was there a connection, or was the answer to be found in a secret -- even dangerous -- relationship Jenn Corbin was having outside her marriage? For Too Late to Say Goodbye, Ann Rule has interviewed virtually everyone in any way related to the story -- the victims' families, police investigators, prosecutors, and sources from Georgia to Australia -- to uncover the truth behind the headlines of these two sensational deaths. What emerges is an incredible tale of jealous rage; of stunning circumstantial and physical evidence that runs from the steamy to the macabre to almost-unheard-of forensic techniques; and of a tragic irony -- a fateful discovery that motivated the killing. The definitive unraveling of one of the strangest murder investigations of our time, Too Late to Say Goodbye is perhaps the finest achievement of a truly great writer's career.
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November 19, 2007
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Excerpt from Too Late to Say Goodbye by Ann Rule
December 4, 2004
The shriek of sirens piercing the chill December morning on Bogan Gates Drive was almost as alien as the thackety-thackety of helicopters overhead would be. This quiet street in Buford is a relatively new part of an upscale neighborhood, home to young and middle-aged professionals and their families. The houses here have mostly red-brick faeades with glossy black shutters, not unlike homes in Atlanta's more affluent districts, but on a smaller scale. In 2004, the average price of a home in Bogan Gates was between $200,000 and $300,000 -- the homes would cost twice that in Denver or Seattle or Philadelphia. Buford is an ideal suburb for those who commute the thirty-five miles to Atlanta: large enough with over 14,000 residents to merit local shopping centers, but small enough to dissolve the tension that comes with driving the I-285 beltway that encircles Atlanta with bumper-to-bumper traffic. And Bogan Gates Drive itself is an oasis of serenity with its manicured lawns and colorful gardens. Children play under the watchful eyes of all the adults there. If some stranger should insinuate himself into this enclave, he would not go unnoticed.
A negative note, at least for some, is that close neighbors tend to know each other's secrets. There isn't the anonymity that exists in apartment buildings in large cities. Neither is there the loneliness that city dwellers sometimes feel. Even so, some families on the street have secrets that none of their neighbors could possibly imagine.
That doesn't stamp Bogan Gates as different; every community has its mysteries and even its surprising secrets. When reporters for television news and local papers sweep into such places, they are certain to obtain instant interviews with shocked residents who invariably say: "Something like that just doesn't happen here -- not in our neighborhood!"
But, of course, it does.
On this day in early December, Bogan Gates Drive just happened to be the site of one of the most horrific crimes in Georgia.
The town of Buford, its name as Southern as a name can be, sits close to Lake Lanier. This popular vacation spot's waters meander for mile after mile, cutting channels deep and wide into the shoreline, leaving inlets that resemble the bite marks of a giant alligator. Buford is surrounded by other small townships: Flowery Branch, Sugar Hill, Suwanee, Duluth, Oakville, Alpharetta. It is very close to the border between Gwinnett and Forsyth counties. Forsyth County once had a reputation as one of the most racially prejudiced areas in America. A sign beside the road there could read "Boiled Peanuts," or it might say, "Nigger, Get Out of Forsyth County, Before Sunset." But no longer. Oprah Winfrey once broadcast her show from Forsyth County, pulling aside the blinds to reveal raw prejudice. Today, those with set ideas about racial disparities have learned not to voice them aloud.
Buford, in Gwinnett County, is far more in tune with the twenty-first century, a bedroom community tied to a thriving metropolis. Young families who live there can enjoy relatively small-town warmth, or drive to Atlanta for more cosmopolitan pleasures.
The family who lived at 4515 Bogan Gates Drive fit comfortably into Buford's demographics. Dr. Barton T. Corbin, forty, had recently moved his dental practice to Hamilton Mill -- less than ten miles away. His wife, Jennifer "Jenn" Corbin, taught at a preschool in the Sugar Hill Methodist Church. Although Dr. Corbin's efforts to build a new practice often kept him away from home, and Jenn was the parent who spent more time with their children, they both seemed to dote on their sons, Dalton, seven, and Dillon, five. They went to the boys' ballgames and participated in school events at Harmony Elementary School, where Dalton was in second grade and Dillon in kindergarten.