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Opening Arguments Begin In Retrial Of Harnett County Woman

Posted September 24, 2002

— Opening statements began Tuesday in the trial of Sandra Odom, who is accused of drowning her stepson, Jarrett Odom, 4.

Sandra Odom is charged with involuntary manslaughter and misdemeanor child abuse. Her first trial in January ended in a mistrial.

A University of North Carolina doctor testifying for the state said the surviving twin, Garrett Odom, suffered a near drowning experience and said the defense's theory of water intoxication, a rare condition, in Jarrett's death is not plausible.

Defense attorneys said Sandra Odom did not leave her 4-year-old twin stepsons alone in the family pool on July 5, 2001. Sandra Odom said her stepsons got out of the pool and then had breathing problems.

In opening statements, Tom Maher, Sandra Odom's attorney, called the death a tragedy, but not a crime.

"She has struggled to understand how that happened. She struggled to understand how Garrett, who got sick and got better, fortunately -- how that happened while he was under her care. She is a good mother, she is a good citizen, she has never been accused of a crime before," Maher said.

The state presented a taped interview with Sandra Odom from July 12, 2001. In it, Odom changes her original statement and confesses to leaving the boys for about 10 minutes:

"I didn't want to say that I left them out in the pool for a few minutes to go into the house, because I didn't want anyone saying I'm a bad mother, because I'm a good mother," Odom said on tape.

Defense attorneys said police forced Sandra Odom into making the statement in exchange for getting her five children back.

"She ultimately decided it was better to tell them what they wanted to hear and get her children back than to insist on the truth" Maher said.

The twins' biological mother, Janet Odom, testified about taking Garrett to visit his twin brother's grave.

"We decided it was time to do that, and he layed down on the ground and started talking to him," she said in tears.

The state will continue presenting its evidence Wednesday.

When the defense takes its case to the jury, they expect Sandra Odom will take the stand.

The trial is expected to take a week.


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