HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A fractured relationship between two sisters who lived together in a Carrollwood home ended with one dead and the other behind bars accused of the murder.
“She was a nice person, a good person, a happy person. She didn’t deserve this,” Pam Nelson said of her longtime friend Karen Pais.
According to the arrest report for Pais’ sister Debra Patton, the sisters lived together in a home on Cypress Park Street in Carrollwood for the past decade.
But over time they grew apart. Friends wanted Pais to kick her sister out of the house, but she refused.
8 On Your Side has learned Pais even told friends she worried about her safety.
“If I go missing or I’m found dead, tell them my sister did it,” Nelson said quoting her friend.
That warning turned out to tragically be true, according to the arrest report.
“We never really thought it would come to fruition,” Nelson said.
Nelson said Pais had told her that her estranged sister Patton had a gun in her nightstand.
“We told her at least take the bullets out of there,” Nelson said, “That way we don’t have to worry.”
Nelson became so worried the last week of May when Pais stopped returning her calls that she contacted the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
In the backyard, according to the arrest report, deputies found a body buried two feet under fresh dirt. Around the victim’s neck was a necklace with the name, Karen.
The medical examiner determined the 66-year-old retired engineer died of a gunshot to the chest.
Her sister Patton now sits in the Orient Road jail, charged with second-degree murder and abuse of a body.
“Did you ever think your ex-wife was capable of something like this?” 8 On Your Side asked Patton’s ex-husband Don Patton.
“My son had warned me that she was dangerous,” he said.
Don and Debra Patton divorced in 1998. Since then, Mr. Patton said he kept in touch with his ex-sister in law.
“My son Christopher who is now deceased, she’s always been since he was born a mother to him,” Mr. Patton said of Pais. “She was not like an aunt. She was like a mother, always there for him even when his own mother wasn’t.”
The arrest report said Patton told detectives she had a personal issue with her sister. It does not specify a motive for the murder.
“There was some animosity about the way Debbie thought Karen wasn’t a caretaker for the parents,” Mr. Patton said, “but Karen was the caretaker for the parents. Debbie was not around much.”
He added Pais’ friends in Tampa were like family.
“She was always there for people,” he said. “She went way beyond what she ever had to do to help people.”
Friends gathered last Saturday for a celebration of her life.
“Karen’s favorite drink was Jack Daniels,” Nelson said. “Well, we all did a shot of Jack to her.”
Debra Patton is represented by a public defender, according to court records. She is being held in jail on a $250,000 bond.
Nelson said she is trying to focus on the positive memories – and not hatred for Patton – but she said she hopes the accused murderer of her friend spends the rest of life in prison.