Former Spalding football coach indicted on murder charge in Maryland

Carl Kearney Jr. is accused of strangling Patrina Best in her home
Patrina Best was killed in Maryland on Feb. 17. Courtesy

Credit: Courtesy photo

Credit: Courtesy photo

Patrina Best was killed in Maryland on Feb. 17. Courtesy

A former metro Atlanta high school football coach accused of strangling a woman in Maryland has been indicted, according to court records.

Grand jurors last week indicted Spalding High head coach Carl Kearney Jr., 43, on two counts, including murder and unauthorized removal of a motor vehicle, in the February death of Patrina Best inside her Maryland home.

Kearney’s indictment states he “did feloniously and willfully kill and murder Patrina Best, in violation of the common law of Maryland, against the peace, government and dignity of the state.”

On Monday, the Griffin-Spalding County School System confirmed Kearney is no longer an employee. His resignation was on the agenda at a March 5 school board session and was effective Feb. 16, according to a district spokesperson.

On the morning of Feb. 17, authorities said Kearney walked into the Prince George’s County police station to report that he had assaulted the woman. Officers found Best unresponsive in her Accokeek home and she died at the scene. She was 38.

“During an interview with homicide unit detectives, Kearney confessed to strangling the victim during an argument,” police said in a news release after the woman’s death.

Kearney said he and Best had gotten into an argument, according to court documents. Kearney said he choked the woman and she lost consciousness. He then smacked her face to “bring her back.”

But when Best didn’t respond, Kearney said he left the home in her car and drove to Virginia. He later returned to Maryland and drove to the police department to report what he had done and was arrested.

Former Spalding High head coach Carl Kearney Jr., 43, was indicted on two counts, including murder, in the February death of Patrina Best. File

Credit: File

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Credit: File

Kearney referred to Best as his girlfriend, but her sister denied that in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after Kearney’s arrest.

Patrina “was not in a relationship with anybody at the time of her death,” Dr. Gianina Best said.

Instead, she added, Kearney “was supposed to be a friend helping her move her things from Georgia to my parents’ house in Maryland before her next travel nurse assignment.”

As a member of a U.S. Navy family, Best grew up in various places including St. Mary’s, Georgia, where she swam for Camden County High School, according to her obituary. She also swam at Georgia Southern University, winning all-conference honors.

“She was known for being fun-loving and friendly,” her obituary states. “Her joy and light were infectious. She was independent and strong, but also deeply compassionate and sensitive. Above all, she was dependable and a wonderful friend. She was a beautiful person, inside and out, and made an impact on many people around the world.”

Kearney’s arrest shocked the Spalding community, where he was a successful coach and mentor to young athletes.

Kearney played football at Georgia Southern. A graduate of Griffin High, he was a standout wide receiver in college and worked as the receivers coach at Griffin High before he was hired by crosstown rival Spalding. He took over a team that went 1-9 the previous season and advanced to the playoffs in 2021, 2022 and 2023, an unprecedented streak in school history. In 2023, the Jaguars posted a 12-1 record and won the region title, the team’s first in 20 years.

A hearing previously scheduled for Monday for Kearney was canceled following his indictment. He will remain in jail and is being held without bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for April 12.