High School Football Coach Walks into Police Station and Allegedly Admits to Strangling Girlfriend

Carl Dennis Kearney, Jr., is charged with two counts of murder and two counts of assault

<p>Prince George

Prince George's County Police Department; Patrina Best/Facebook

Carl Dennis Kearney, Jr. in mugshot (L); Patrina Sharmaine Best (R)

The high school football coach walked into the Maryland police station Saturday night to report a crime.

There, Carl Dennis Kearney, Jr., 43, allegedly told police that he had gotten into a fight with his girlfriend and strangled her unconscious, per the statement of probable cause obtained by PEOPLE.

In what police called his “detailed account of what transpired,” Kearney allegedly told the officers at the Division V Clinton Police Station that he slapped his girlfriend's face in order to “bring her back.”

Kearney allegedly told police that when she did not come to, he fled the residence and drove to Virginia in her car, but that he had returned to Prince George’s County to report the incident.

<p>Griffin Spalding County Schools</p> Carl Dennis Kearney, Jr. in 2022 in the Spalding High School weight room, where he worked as a head coach starting in 2020.

Griffin Spalding County Schools

Carl Dennis Kearney, Jr. in 2022 in the Spalding High School weight room, where he worked as a head coach starting in 2020.

Twelve minutes after Kearney walked into the station, Prince George’s County Police Officers arrived at the address to conduct a welfare check.

There, they found Patrina Sharmaine Best, 38, “unresponsive in the basement,” per the statement of probable cause. She was pronounced dead at 9:50 p.m. Saturday.

Kearney was arrested on probable cause Feb. 18 and is charged with murder in the first and second degree, as well as felony assault in the first degree and misdemeanor assault in the second degree, according to the charging documents obtained by PEOPLE and his online court records.

<p>Patrina Best/Facebook</p> Patrina Sharmaine Best

Patrina Best/Facebook

Patrina Sharmaine Best

The Accokeek, Md., murder case has not yet gone to a grand jury, his lawyer, Catherine Woolley, tells PEOPLE. In a routine hearing in the District Court for Prince George's County, which temporarily oversees criminal cases that have just entered the system, Kearney pleaded not guilty to the charges through his lawyer on Tuesday.

Kearney was a decorated coach at Spalding High School in Griffin, Ga., who helped lead his team to its first regional title in 20 years in 2023.

The school has declined comment on the case.

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<p>Prince George's County Police Department</p> Carl Dennis Kearney, Jr. in mugshot, Feb. 2024

Prince George's County Police Department

Carl Dennis Kearney, Jr. in mugshot, Feb. 2024

Best was a licensed registered nurse who studied kinesiology at Georgia Southern University, The Washington Post reports.

One of Best’s neighbors told the newspaper that Best and Kearney were not girlfriend and boyfriend. (Following law enforcement interviews with Kearney, Prince George’s County Police Department identified Best as “his girlfriend.”)

“Our hearts are broken,” the neighbor told The Post. “He was a monster.”

Kearney is being held without bond, per his online court record. His bail status was further confirmed by both Woolley and a spokeswoman for the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office.

If indicted, the case will proceed to the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, where Kearney plans to plead not guilty once again, Woolley says.

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