Maryland homicide victim was not Georgia coach’s girlfriend, sister says

Spalding high school football coach Carl Kearney Jr. charged with murdering Patrina Best.

Carl Kearney Jr. walked into The Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland on Saturday and confessed to killing Patrina Best.

Police said that Kearney, the football coach at Spalding High School in Griffin, Georgia, told them that Best was his girlfriend.

That’s not true, according to Best’s sister, Dr. Gianina Best.

Patrina “was not in a relationship with anybody at the time of her death,” Gianina Best wrote in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday.

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.”

Responding officers found Patrina Best, 38, unresponsive. She died at the scene in her home in Accokeek, Maryland, just south of Washington, D.C.

During an interview Saturday morning with detectives, Kearney said he and Best had gotten into an argument, according to court documents. Kearney said he strangled 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.

Kearney is charged with first- and second-degree murder and first- and second-degree assault. He was denied bail in a Maryland courtroom on Tuesday afternoon, according to a court spokeswoman. Kearney will remain in custody and has a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 18.

Patrina “was the light of our lives, and we will miss her dearly for the rest of our days,” Gianina Best wrote in an email.

The Best family considered Patrina the queen of swimming, a Scrabble master and somebody who would drop everything to care for those she loved.

She was a standout swimmer at Camden County High School and Georgia Southern University, where she swam the breaststroke and freestyle. She worked as an exercise physiologist and later became a nurse, specializing in operating room nursing.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, she traveled the country providing nursing care to areas in need of qualified OR nurses,” Gianina Best wrote.

Patrina’s parents, Pearson and Georgiana Best, hail from Barbados and Hawaii. Pearson Best was a U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer, so the family often moved, a trait Patrina carried forward. She worked as a registered travel nurse with stints in San Francisco, Oregon and Massachusetts. A few years ago, she paused her career and returned to Hawaii to provide care for her grandmother.

“That’s just the kind of person she was,” Gianina Best wrote.

“Patrina was a constant source of joy and laughter in our lives. She was guaranteed to be present for every birthday, holiday, and special occasion.”

Funeral arrangements were pending for Patrina Best.

— Staff writer Alexis Stevens contributed to this story.