Local News

Jurors Hear Testimony From Father Who Lost Son In Harnett County Drowning

Posted January 28, 2002

— Jurors in the case of a Harnett County woman charged in the drowning death of her stepson heard testimony from the woman's husband on Friday.

Claude Odom, Sandra's husband, testified that he thought she was a good mother. The prosecution brought up several incidents during which police say that Odom expressed doubts about his wife's explanation of what happened -- a claim that he repeatedly denied under oath.

"I have never questioned whether or not she was telling the truth. I mean there were a lot of questions that were raised, but I made it clear the entire time that I believed her story," he said.

Odom is on trial for the drowning death of her four-year-old stepson Jarrett.

The prosecution is arguing that Odom left Jarrett and his twin brother Garrett alone in the family pool. The defense says Odom never left the children alone.

Garrett Odom survived the incident and is living with his biological mother, Janet Odom.

A Harnett County jury did not hear testimony from a medical expert who says

water intoxication

could be to blame for Jarrett Odom's death.

Sandra Odom's lawyers presented the expert testimony to the judge, but not to the jury.

Dr. Juan Ayus said children are susceptible to water intoxication and that his review of the data shows that that is what happened in this case.

"I believe after reviewing the data that this tragedy is explained by the child absorbing water given the time that he was in the swimming pool, developing swelling of the brain which is the result of that complication, and he died from that."

Odom took the witness stand in her own defense on Thursday.

She testified for more than two hours about the events that led to the death of her stepson.

Under oath, she told jurors that she did not leave the twins alone in their backyard swimming pool on July 5, 2001.

Earlier Thursday, prosecutors provided an audio tape of an interview that Odom had given to authorities after the drowning. On July 12, seven days after the incident, when Odom was interviewed by SBI agents and members of the Angier police, she said that she left the boys at the side of the pool while she ran into the house for 10 minutes.

On the stand last week, Odom said that what she initially told investigators was not true.

"I have explained what has happened from day one to pretty much now and my big mouth pretty much kept in trouble with that statement," Odom told jurors. "You heard the statement, but you don't realize that I had not eaten in a week. I had just lost a child, but I was just a stepmother according to every account."

If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Odom faces two years in prison.


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