FAMILY SECRETS

Psychologist Says His Wife Committed Suicide. Cops Say He Killed Her.

A Nevada psychologist says his wife tragically killed herself with a lethal mix of oxycodone and antifreeze—but cops just arrested him for her alleged murder.

03.13.17 5:05 AM ET

The Nevada psychologist phoned his wife’s father early one January morning and warned him that paramedics were rushing her to the hospital.

During the call, Gregory “Brent” Dennis told the Oklahoma man that his daughter, Susan Winters, was unconscious and wasn’t breathing. “My god, Dan, she drank antifreeze,” Dennis allegedly said that day in 2015.

Winters’s parents were at the airport hours later and ready to fly to Las Vegas to be at their daughter’s side. But Dennis called again. This time, he claimed Winters’s condition was hopeless: She’d had two heart attacks and her kidneys had failed.

“They’re saying she has no chance,” the 54-year-old Dennis said, when asked about the doctor’s prognosis.

Dennis would call the Winters family one last time. He told them that Susan—a lawyer and mother of two teenage daughters—had died at age 48.

Police closed the case a month after the Clark County coroner ruled Susan’s death a suicide by a lethal mix of oxycodone and antifreeze.

But Dan Winters and his wife, Avis, never believed Susan killed herself, and they hired lawyers to conduct their own investigation. “There’s no way in hell that she would have taken her own life. No way in hell,” Dan Winters, who made his fortune operating Sonic franchises, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last year.

Dan Winters said he got a weird vibe from Dennis, 8 News Now reported. The grieving father said Dennis called a relative after his wife died and said, “I just got interviewed by one of the police officers. I think I passed.”

It was a private investigation by Susan Winters’s own family that prompted Henderson detectives to reopen her case.

Early last month, police cuffed Dennis on the charge of open murder with a deadly weapon. The shrink was released on $250,000 bail soon after.

The arrest comes as Winters’s parents fight Dennis in court for control of their daughter’s estate. Dennis, who owns a Boulder City mental health clinic, received nearly $2 million after Winters died—as an inheritance and from her life insurance.

Attorneys for the Winters clan accused Dennis of profiting from their daughter’s untimely death and of using the million-dollar payouts he received to allegedly fuel a “drug-addicted lifestyle,” the Review-Journal reported.

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Dennis allegedly spent about $10,000 on drugs in the two months after Susan Winters died, the lawyers claimed in court papers reviewed by the Review-Journal.

The psychologist’s attorney, Richard Schonfeld, declined to comment on the drug-abuse and wild spending allegations.

“I won’t dignify it with a response,” Schonfeld told The Daily Beast.

Schonfeld said those allegations were made in opposition to his request to postpone the civil litigation while Dennis’s criminal case is pending. (A judge granted the request for a stay.)

The attorney says his client’s innocence will be proven at a preliminary hearing in August.

“We ask people not to rush to judgment because there is absolutely exculpatory evidence that exonerates Mr. Dennis,” the lawyer said.

“He has been at the same practice for approximately 30 years in Boulder City,” Schonfeld added. “He’s well-respected in his community and he has tremendous support from his patients and friends in the local community.

“We’re looking forward to presenting the other side to this story,” he said.

A Henderson police report paints a disturbing picture of a husband who allegedly poisoned his wife to cover up and bankroll his drug addiction. The document also describes a psychologist who was supposedly popping pills handed over by his own patients.

Susan Winters had repeatedly threatened to “turn [her husband] in” and jeopardize his professional license and psychology practice, cops claim.

And call records, investigators say, reveal that Winters called and texted Dennis’s alleged drug dealer in the days before her death.

Dennis’s accounts of the night of Susan Winters’s death vary, police say.

According to a 27-page declaration of arrest, Dennis claimed he took his teen daughters out on Jan. 2, 2015, and returned home to find his home computer on with internet searches for committing suicide with antifreeze.

The therapist said he confronted Winters about the websites but that she refused to answer his questions. In at least one version of his story, Dennis claimed he threatened to call cops if Winters didn’t answer him, but he declined after Winters warned she’d hurt herself and tell officers he was abusing her.

Sometime later, Winters was snoring loudly in bed when Dennis fell asleep next to her, he claimed. The hubby told cops that he woke the next morning to find that Winters wasn’t breathing and had urinated on herself.

When EMTs arrived to attempt saving Winters’s life, Dennis told them she may have ingested antifreeze. Dennis later escorted detectives to his garage and showed them two open and half-empty bottles of antifreeze, which he speculated were left by the previous owner of their residence. (Police say there was no physical evidence in the bedroom to give Dennis any indication his wife committed suicide.)

But investigators say Dennis’s cellphone records contradict his statements to police on his movements that night.

In the early morning hours before Winters died, Dennis’s phone was pinging cell towers near The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Vegas. That’s where, according to police, a convicted cocaine dealer named Jeffrey Crosby lived.

From 2:46 a.m. to 3:15 a.m. on Jan. 3, Dennis’s phone exchanged 20 text messages with Crosby’s mobile. At 3:15 a.m., Dennis’s phone was connected to the cellular tower that services The Orleans. Seventeen minutes later, Dennis was back home, police say.

Once at his residence, Dennis attempted to contact Crosby’s phone three times but none of the calls appear to have been answered. The last attempted call was at 5:32 a.m.—1 hour and 16 minutes after Dennis dialed 911 for his wife.

“This indicates that Dennis did not sleep next to Winters all night, but contacted and then met his cocaine dealer at The Orleans hotel… before returning home and watching Winters expire from the substances in her body,” the police affidavit states.

According to the police report, Dennis’s alleged drug addiction was well-known among his family and friends. One of his daughters even told a former FBI agent-turned-private investigator that his drug use “was not a big deal,” the document claims.

That private eye, Jim Perry, tailed Dennis between Jan. 9 and March 27, 2015, and says he followed him to The Orleans Hotel four times.

“On every occasion, investigators observed Dennis sit in his vehicle with his head faced downward toward his lap,” the police report states. “Dennis would remain in that position for a couple of minutes, rub his nose, and drive away from the hotel.”

Dennis was allegedly spotted outside the hotel and entering Crosby’s room again in August and September of that year.

Indeed, cops claim Dennis boasted of his “recreational” drug use and on some occasions even asked Winters’s relatives for their prescription narcotics.

During a deposition in the Winters family’s civil case, Dennis copped to buying drugs from “Jeffrey” at the time of his wife’s death. He said he “possibly” purchased cocaine, hydrocodone, Valium, Xanax, and Viagra from Crosby.

Winters was aware of his drug abuse and knew his dealer, the therapist testified. “I’m going to turn you in. I’m going to call the police. I’ll tell your parents,” he said his wife warned him, according to his deposition.

Police also learned that in the months before she died, Winters complained about her marriage in group text messages to friends.

Winters, described by family as a bubbly and big-hearted barrister who adored Elvis, claimed that “Dennis was either having an affair or was gay as he did not want to have sex with her,” the declaration of arrest states.

During his testimony, Dennis said his marriage was fine. Winters’s family told police that she rarely discussed her marital problems with them. The couple’s youngest daughter, however, testified that they were arguing about divorce on Jan. 2., 2015.

Meanwhile, investigators believe Robert Lynn, a nurse practitioner at Dennis’s mental health clinic, may have prescribed Winters’s fatal serving of oxycodone. State records show Lynn prescribed oxycodone or morphine about 128 different times from October 2014 to January 2015, the police report states.

Cops say they’ve identified several “patients” who received prescriptions from Lynn before allegedly giving Dennis their meds. One woman told police she would acquire 150 hydrocodone pills and Dennis would buy them for $5 apiece.

Dennis obtained drugs from another woman, who was Lynn’s patient, police say. “Hey Julie, hate to ask, but do you have any pain pills?” Dennis allegedly texted her on Aug. 9, 2015. “Yes, anytime is OK,” the woman replied. Dennis then said, “Will be by in a few minutes, will have a friend in the car, no worries.”

The police report also describes how Dennis allegedly called his wife’s life insurance company three times on the morning of Jan. 5, 2015 to report her death and collect the benefits under her policy.

The company’s records indicate that Dennis asked whether Winters’s insurance policy contained a suicide exclusion, and that he reported her death as the result of cardiac arrest, according to police. Dennis allegedly told the company that he didn’t need to assign the benefits to pay for funeral expenses.

On Jan. 9, Dennis deposited a $180,000 check from Winters’s personal bank account into his own. In a later deposition, Dennis claimed that he and his wife co-wrote the check before she died to pay the couple’s quarterly taxes and front a down payment for a new home. When pressed, Dennis admitted they hadn’t even looked for a new residence, court papers say.

The psychologist received a $1-million insurance payout on Feb. 27.

In addition to allegedly fishy finances, Winters’s parents also eyed the antifreeze web searches Dennis claimed their daughter conducted.

Their private investigators subpoenaed records from Dennis’s internet service provider and the Veterinary Information Network, which ran an antifreeze webpage that Dennis told authorities his wife had accessed.

The records showed a web hit on Jan. 3 at 5:15 a.m. pacific time, with an IP address and browser tracing back to Dennis’s home computer, authorities say. These results indicate “Dennis conduct[ed] the search as Winters was certainly incapacitated,” and about an hour before the 911 call, the declaration of arrest states.

In April 2016, lawyers for the Winters family asked to inspect the computer Dennis claimed his wife used to research antifreeze.

Three months later, one of Dennis’s daughters testified that the computer got a virus about two weeks before they turned it over to attorneys for Winters’s parents.

According to court papers, Dennis’s children believe Winters committed suicide and have made statements in support of their father. The girls have also allegedly tried to corroborate Dennis’s version of events regarding the night before their mother died.

Dennis’s “computer guy”—Todd Emond, who authorities say was a convicted felon for conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud in 2011—was working on the computer a week before the handoff, the daughter testified.

That computer, according to the arrest report, has never been produced.

Authorities say another device, linked to the home computer, must have conducted the searches on Jan. 2 or the computer’s records were manipulated.

Emond told authorities that he set up Dennis’s clinic computer and created a network connection between his work and home computers.

The technician also said Dennis asked him to come to his house and determine whether anything related to antifreeze was on the home computer. Emond said he then discovered a virus while trying to make a copy of the hard drive.

Authorities say Emond sent Dennis’s hard drives to a company in Chicago “to ensure the scrub of information.”

“Emond had no explanation as to why Dennis was asking him to tamper with the evidence which had been demanded by Winters’s parent’s lawyers on multiple occasions,” the police report states.

A review of Dennis’s iPhone—obtained through a search warrant—revealed Emond texted the psychologist on the day of his deposition. “Hang in there. Don’t let those shady mother fucker Attorney’s [sic] get to you. They are paid to be assholes. Give them nothing,” Emond allegedly wrote.

After the deposition, Emond and Dennis texted about pinpointing something on the hard drives. “There’s more data then [sic] I expected,” Emond wrote. “Lots and lots of shopping. 5 years of stuff. We’ll get it.”

Investigators unearthed web searches on a Google Drive from October 2014 relating to blood poisoning and drinking bleach to pass a drug test. One query specifically was “what happens if you drink antifreeze,” police say.

Whoever was accessing the Dennis family computers also researched a story on a couple who nearly died from swallowing antifreeze because of its sweet flavor. The retired teachers, the story said, believed they were drinking vermouth.

Some of the Google Drive searches pertained to Dennis’s psychology business, while others were “consistent with Winters attempting to intervene in Dennis’s cocaine addiction,” according to the arrest report.

That month, Winters complained to friends via text message about her husband and how he was draining their finances, court documents state.

“After I fell asleep he woke me up about 2:00 am. Confession time. Lots and lots of coke,” Winters texted one friend, according to police.

“He struggled in to [sic] work this morning. Don’t know how long he will stay. Still not completely sure the whole coke thing isn’t a cover up for being gay,” Winters continued shortly after. “Of course he is defensive and doesn’t want to talk.”

Winters added a hint of levity to the text conversation: “I thought I knew the tell tell [sic] signs of coke use but maybe not. Guess I need to find an NA meeting and a wives with gay husband meeting too. Hahaha.”

Winters noted that she thought “it was weird he was eating Taco Bell for breakfast on a regular basis” in addition to eating a lot at night.

“Reading as much as I can find on google about drug addiction,” Winters later texted a friend. “I wish I could remember everything Brent told me last night.”

For their part, Winters’s parents say they suddenly became Dennis’s adversaries.

In a heartbreaking interview with the Review-Journal last year, Avis Winters accused Dennis of telling his daughters “what a lousy mother they had [and] how she didn’t love them enough to stick around.”

“He was going to be the hero,” Avis Winters added. “He was going to take care of them.”

Dan Winters said he’s convinced Susan never swilled antifreeze. He begged Henderson police to take another look at the case.

“I know when it’s over and when he goes to jail, that I’m not going to be any better off than I was,” Dan Winters said. “Susan’s still going to be gone. But I’m telling you: I’m her father and I know damn well what she didn’t do.”