Florida woman shares story about killing sister, life after prison

Barbara Burns says she finally feels free

Barbara Burns
Barbara Burns (Florida Depatment of Corrections photo)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – They argued that night about money, as they often did. “It’s gone,” Barbara Burns kept telling her sister. “You spent it all.”

Barbara, then 53, wanted to move to Virginia Beach, where she thought things would be cheaper. Her sister Debbie, 40, wanted to stay in their double-wide in the Tyrone area of St. Petersburg, order more cable channels, buy more Star Wars stuff.

Debbie was mentally disabled and couldn’t understand that, in five years, they had blown through more than $350,000 of the inheritance their brother left for her care. Barbara tried to explain, tried to be patient.

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She had taken care of Debbie for her whole life. The sisters even slept in the same room, their single beds in an L-shape, their heads almost touching.

That night, Aug. 15, 2004, Barbara remembers they had gone to Macaroni Grill, had a couple of Coors Lights, come home and fought through the evening news. She remembers her tears, Debbie’s tantrum. She remembers her sister fell asleep first, remembers listening to her breathe.

She says she doesn’t know what happened next. Only what the detectives told her.

“They told me I shot her,” Barbara said. “I went to a prison psychologist, and he said it’s a good thing I can’t remember.”