Woman slain, body hidden under Christmas presents

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — 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 murder charges, 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 aunt 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.

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