News24

Woman killed, hidden under Xmas presents

2011-12-07 10:12

Columbia - A 67-year-old Florida woman was found beaten, strangled and hidden beneath the Christmas presents in her home, and authorities have charged a younger woman who had been befriended by the victim.

Patty Michelle White, 40, of South Carolina, was jailed on fugitive charges and expected to be extradited on Tuesday to Florida to face murder charges, authorities said.

The body of Michele O'Dowd of Florida was discovered on Friday by her twin brother, Phil Axt, who had gone to check on her at her home in a gated community after O'Dowd failed to show up for work.

The door was open and O'Dowd's house had been ransacked, Axt said. Chairs and tables were turned upside down. Her car and dog were still at home.

"I knew this wasn't going to pretty," he said.

Screams

A foot was sticking out of a big pile of Christmas gifts, Axt said. Buried under the gifts was his sister's cold body, her bloody face covered with a towel.

Police said White was an ex-girlfriend of the victim's nephew, and was considered a family friend. They said White had returned to Florida to rob O'Dowd after staying with relatives in South Carolina.

"Whatever took place in that apartment went horribly wrong and she ended up beating and killing her," according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. White then returned to South Carolina, where she confessed to authorities after she was pulled over and arrested on Saturday.

Axt said his sister treated White as part of the family, giving her odd jobs to earn extra money even though "she just couldn't keep a job, couldn't get her life together".

O'Dowd allowed White to stay at her home for a month for free, trusting her with her PIN number to her debit card so White could purchase groceries for the two of them.

White later used that debit card to withdraw $1 000 at two bank ATMs in Florida, authorities said.

Authorities took some clothes from White's family's home in South Carolina to be examined and turned over to Florida police. A car in which White and her mother were travelling when White was arrested was also examined, but later released to the family, police said.

Aunt Miki, as O'Dowd was known to friends and family, was "the most sweetest, kindest person who would never hurt a fly", Axt said.

He also said his sister's neighbours heard screams.

"So many people in the community said they heard someone screaming and wailing, and no one called the police," he said.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office declined further comment pending the investigation. There was no answer at a phone listing for White's family in South Carolina.