Debbie Patton-Bearden is a hard woman to fool. The 68-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, saw the warning signs and made her feelings known early in the twisted love triangle between her oilman brother, a private eye and pharmaceutical heiress Catherine Slatkin — but no one heeded her advice, and the saga ended in murder.
On Thursday, July 11, Oxygen premieres its new original show “Killer Affair,” leading off with the story of Catherine Slatkin, her husband, Richard Slatkin, and Johnny and Jason Patton — both of whom she would eventually romance, with lethal consequences.
On Oct. 1, 2013, Johnny Patton gunned down the ex-husband of his heiress girlfriend, Catherine Slatkin. On the surface, he seemed innocent — Patton was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher, claiming that he was in fear for his life. He even went to the police station earlier that morning to inform them that Richard Slatkin, the 66-year-old private investigator Johnny Patton later shot to death in front of his lover’s suburban home, was planning on killing him.
Nothing was as it seemed, however: The Slatkins married in 2009 with a 36-year age gap between them, and for years of their marriage, Catherine was secretly carrying on an affair with the younger Jason Patton, eventually having his child. She would eventually leave her husband for Jason, only to take up with Jason’s father, oilman Johnny Patton, after Jason went to jail.
Patton-Bearden was wise to the affair long before Richard, she told Oxygen.com on Wednesday. One day, she said, while driving past Johnny Patton’s office — where Jason also frequented — she saw Catherine’s car parked in a back alley.
“I thought, ‘You little brat!’” Patton-Bearden said. “I laid on that horn and called her phone … I said, ‘What the hell are you doing?’”
When Catherine became pregnant with her second child a short time later, Patton-Bearden said, it didn’t take her long to figure “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that the baby actually belonged to her nephew, Jason Patton.
“I kept a smile on my face, but I knew in my heart, that is a Patton baby,” Patton-Bearden told Oxygen. “I leaned in and kissed her on the cheek and I whispered, ‘Well, there’s nothing like looking at a Patton baby.’”
Catherine barely reacted when Patton-Bearden revealed that she knew the truth — she “wasn’t an emotional person,” according to Patton-Bearden. She just smiled up at her new baby’s aunt. When Richard came into the hospital room, things became awkward.
“He said, ‘I make beautiful babies, don’t I?’” Patton-Bearden recalled. “I said, ‘Richard, she is gorgeous. You did a good job, honey.’”
Even on Richard and Catherine’s wedding day, Patton-Bearden knew there were problems waiting in the wings, given Catherine’s closeness with Jason, she said, recalling what she said to the bride-to-be as she stood before her in her wedding dress.
“I said, ‘Look at me. If you want out of this, take my hand and I’ll take you in my car and we’re gone,’” Patton-Bearden said.
Catherine would eventually leave Richard to move in with Jason Patton, but her lover was hiding problems of his own, and eventually went to prison on drug charges. After that, she fell into the arms of Jason’s father, the older, wealthy Johnny Patton. Their story, of course, ended with Richard shot dead in front of his ex-wife’s home.
“I warned everybody,” Patton-Bearden said. “It fell on deaf ears.”
In the years since Richard’s murder, Patton-Bearden has lost touch with Jason and Catherine, but she said that she often visits her brother in prison, where he is serving a life sentence. The closest she has come recently to interacting with Catherine, who remarried and moved away, was a brief encounter with one of her friends in a grocery store.
“She came up to me, and she said, ‘Do you know what Catherine told me?’” Patton-Bearden said. “I said, ‘Do I need to know this?’”
The woman, according to Patton-Bearden, proceeded to dish on her interactions with Catherine since the murder.
Debbie Patton-Bearden, all complicated feelings about the tragedy aside, bristled.
“I said, ‘You just came up to me to tell me something your friend told you … and that makes you a rat,’” Patton-Bearden allegedly told the woman, before going on her way.
For the whole twisted story of the Slatkins, the Pattons and the lethal love triangle Debbie Patton-Bearden tried to warn people about, catch Oxygen’s “Killer Affair,” which premiered on Thursday, July 11.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.