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Woman accused of murdering sister, burying her body claims she's competent to stand trial

Accused killer speaks out against lawyer's advice
Posted at 3:57 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-26 17:28:07-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Debra Patton, the defendant in a murder that made national news last year, was back before a judge Tuesday in a hearing aimed at determining whether she’s mentally fit to stand trial.

The ABC Action News I-Team uncovered troubling details about Patton’s past shortly after the crime occurred.

Patton, who is now 68-years-old, is charged with fatally shooting her sister and covering up the crime by burying her body in the backyard.

She appeared in court for a competency hearing to determine if she has the mental capacity to stand trial for the murder of her sister Karen Pais last May.

Debra Patton addresses judge

The two women lived together for more than a decade and had a long history of conflict.

Friends told us Karen had confided to them before her death that she believed Debra might kill her.

We also learned that Debra had expressed she wanted to kill her ex-husband Don Patton many years earlier, shortly after their divorce.

On Tuesday, we heard from Debra for the first time since her arrest last year.

“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.

Reports from two psychiatrists were inconclusive regarding Patton’s competency.

Several of Karen’s friends were in the courtroom today.

Jan Wilder said she’s ready for closure and believes Debra is trying to prevent her trial from moving forward.

“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."

The judge assigned a third doctor to evaluate Patton.

The report is due June 1. Debra has another court appearance scheduled June 7.

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