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Woman accused of killing sister, burying her body in backyard found incompetent

Debra Patton will be sent to Florida State Hospital
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Posted at 12:11 PM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 17:54:46-04

TAMPA, Fla. — A woman charged last year with murdering her sister has been found incompetent to stand trial.

69-year-old Debra Patton was arrested last year for the murder of her sister Karen Pais.

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Murder victim Karen Pais

Investigators said Patton fatally shot her sister and buried her body in the backyard of their Carrollwood home.

The ABC Action News I-Team uncovered the sisters had a decades-long history of conflict and friends said Patton threatened to kill Karen and her ex-husband Don Patton in the past.

Patton told the judge at a hearing in April that she believed she was competent to stand trial.

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Debra Patton addresses judge

“I feel that I am competent and would love to be able to be interviewed by a psychologist or a psychiatrist. I’m competent to stand trial,” Patton told the judge, against the advice of her attorney.

Karen Pais’ longtime friend Jan Wilder, who attended that hearing, said she believed Patton was trying to prevent her trial from moving forward by acting out in court.

“I think she’s just delaying this for sure," Wilder said. "I don’t know why she wouldn’t just want to get it over with and start serving her sentence."

Patton was appointed another public defender after the April hearing, along with two new doctors to conduct a new mental evaluation of her.

Their reports were delivered to the court last week, but are considered confidential.

Patton’s new attorney, the prosecutor and the judge all agreed that the reports raised doubts about Patton’s ability to stand trial on the charges.

“It also indicates she is restorable, at least by their opinions. It indicates that they believe she can be restored to competency,” said Assistant State Attorney John Terry.

Patton will be transported to Florida State Hospital, where she will receive mental health care aimed at restoring her competency.

She will be re-evaluated at a later date to determine if her mental health status has changed.

If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, email us at adam@abcactionnews.com.