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Barbara Burns killed her disabled sister Debbie Burns: Twisted Sisters investigates

Barbara Burns mugshot
Barbara Burns pleaded guilty to killing her disabled sister Debbie Burns and was charged with manslaughter. Pic credit: Florida Dept. of Corrections

Twisted Sisters is investigating the particularly tragic death of Debbie Burns, a mentally disabled woman from St Petersburg, Florida, who was killed by her sister Barbara Burns.

Barbara had taken care of her sister for 40 years, Debbie’s entire life. She had made many sacrifices to look after Debbie, which weren’t always appreciated by the younger sibling, who could be irritable, demanding, and prone to tantrums.

The two were so close that they even shared a bedroom; however, in recent times, their relationship had become strained, and they were frequently arguing over money.

Barbara tried to make her sister understand that they had spent all the money left by their brother for Debbie’s care. Barbara told Debbie that they would have to move to Virginia Beach, where things were cheaper.

But Debbie wanted to stay in their home in St Petersburg and wanted to continue spending money on things they could not afford.

On August 15, 2004, Debbie’s 40th birthday, the pair had once again been arguing about money, and it seems that Barbara decided she’d had enough and snapped. After Debbie had fallen asleep, Barbara took a firearm that she’d bought some time ago for protection and fired a single bullet into her sister’s head.

She wrapped Debbie in a shower curtain and an extra blanket but otherwise left her remains lying on the bed. As Debbie’s body began to decompose, Barbara attempted to hide the smell with potpourri and various air fresheners.

Barbara Burns ignored her sister’s killing

Barbara continued to go to work and do things as normal, pretending that she had not murdered her sister. She eventually told a neighbor that Debbie had left for California. About three months after the shooting, Barbara left St Petersburg for Virginia Beach and never returned.

The home remained abandoned, and nobody questioned the Burns sisters’ whereabouts until the mortgage payments stopped, and the bank sent people around to repossess the mobile home. They noticed an appalling smell coming from inside before discovering Debbie’s decomposing remains.

Detectives tracked Barbara to a homeless shelter in Virginia Beach, and when they questioned her about Debbie, she broke down in tears and confessed to the murder.

In May 2005, Barbara was charged with first-degree murder. She eventually agreed to plead guilty, and the charge was reduced to manslaughter.

She was sentenced to 15 years in prison but only served 12 as she was released in February 2018. Barbara claims to have no memory of shooting Debbie.

More from Twisted Sisters

Follow the links to read about more horrific murders perpetrated by deranged siblings.

Denice Smith and Deborah Graham were two twisted sisters who arranged the murder of Denice’s ex-husband Aaron Smith because he won custody of their two children in a bitter and acrimonious divorce battle.

Georgia Weaver was a cold-hearted manipulator who moved into the home of her sister Jeannie Allen and began plotting to murder her so she could steal her money.

Twisted Sisters airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.

Jerry was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, but is now based in the UK. He specializes in true crime and entertainment news stories. When... read more
Jerry Brown


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