A wife’s death is ‘collateral damage’ from Mahnomen County shooting

If there are sadder stories than that of Mahnomen County deputy sheriff Chris Dewey over the life of NewsCut, I sure can’t think of one.

He was shot without provocation by Thomas Fairbanks, who had been drinking on a February night in 2009 when he was shot.

He had married his high school sweetheart, Emily, four years earlier.

He made a quick recovery as these things go, but then a series of complications developed and he died more than a year later.

Emily is dead now, too.

“He completed her,” her sister, Hannah Rentmeester, tells Forum Communications. “He kept her grounded, and without him, life fell apart for her.”

She was 33 when she died in Colorado of liver failure.

“They truly were meant for each other and perfect for one another,” Rentmeester tells Forum. “She couldn’t do life without Chris.”

During that time, she said Dewey struggled with a growing reliance on alcohol. Rentmeester brought her older sister to treatment multiple times, trying her best to get Dewey sober. She would stay sober for a while, she said, but eventually relapse.

Things got worse a couple of years ago as the sisters lost both their mother and father within six months of each other. Rentmeester said the deaths were “the last straw” for Dewey, who was already in a spiral before that.

More recently, Dewey lived in Minnesota, and she moved to Denver about a year and a half ago.

Dewey was aware that her health was declining, yet Rentmeester said she continued to drink. She said her sister wasn’t blameless, but she believes her death was strongly connected to what happened to Chris Dewey.

“When she was sober, she was my best friend, and she was the best friend somebody could ever have,” she said. “But when she was lost in alcohol, they’re different people.”

Irony. Because someone got drunk, a sheriff dies. Because of alcohol, his wife does too.

“If someone else can be saved out of me talking and getting this story out, that would be great, because there’s so much collateral damage that happens when a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty,” her sister said.

Fairbanks is serving life in prison with no chance of parole.

  • Guest

    The sum total of human pain from alcohol versus the sum total joys.

    Even if the pain is worse than the joys, my lesson from prohibition is: Once embedded in culture you can’t take away a joy even to save the pains.

    I fear we have lost that struggle with marijuana, lives will be ruined and joys will be there……even if society were to reckon the pains are worse than the joys.

    Here is to hoping the next substance to alter the mind (harder drugs?) does not cause more pain than joy.

    • Ben Chorn

      The heroin/opioid epidemic is very real and frightening when you look at it. It’s already illegal and is destroying lives.

      You can look at the substance, but as a society we need to look at the people. It’s the people who need the help and the care and simply instituting a prohibition only takes away the substance.

      • Guest

        YEP, but the tools of government are big and heavy and blunt and generally don’t care about individuals.