After a 67-year-old Florida woman was found beaten, strangled and hidden beneath the Christmas presents in her home, authorities charged a younger woman who had been befriended by the victim.
Patty Michelle White, 40, of York, S.C., was being held in the York County jail on fugitive charges, and was expected to be extradited Tuesday to Florida to face a murder charge, authorities said.
The body of Michele O'Dowd of Jacksonville, Fla., was discovered 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.
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 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 traveling 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 neighbors 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 Tuesday at a phone listing for White's family in South Carolina.
Laboy reported from Miami.