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Family Members, Water Intoxication Expert Testify In Odom Trial

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LILLINGTON, N.C. — Several people testified Thursday on behalf of a Harnett County woman who is charged with the death of her 4-year-old stepson, including an expert on water intoxication.

Sandra Odom is charged with involuntary manslaughter and misdemeanor child abuse in the death of her 4-year-old stepson. Odom is accused of leaving her twin stepsons, Jarrett and Garrett Odom, alone in the family's pool on July 5, 2001. Jarrett died; Garrett was injured, but survived.

Odom testified that she never left her stepsons alone in the pool and on Thursday, several people agreed.

Sandra Odom's mother, Karen Hardcastle, said she never doubted her daughter's story that Jarrett and Garrett were never left alone in the pool, but she said investigators did.

"The policemen involved, no one believed her, as I understand," she said. "No one was listening to my grandchildren. No one was listening to my daughter."

Claude Odom, the father of the twins, said he believed his wife when she said she did not leave the boys alone in the pool.

"There were big questions in my mind, as I'm sure there were in everyone's mind, what medically caused my son to die and the other to be injured, but I had no reason to question the events," he said.

The defense also presented testimony from Dr. Carlos Ayus, of Baylor University, an expert on a rare condition called water intoxication.

Ayus told the court that Jarrett and Garrett suffered from a condition called hyponatremia, which is identified by low sodium in the blood. He said the condition can be caused by gulping in too much water in a swimming pool.

"What really happens in this condition is that people will stop breathing and die as a result of swelling of the brain," Ayus said.

The doctor testified that hyponatremia is rarely seen in drowning deaths.

"Hyponatremia is an infrequent complication of drowning," he said.

Ayus also pointed out that you cannot tell by medical records alone whether someone died from drowning or hyponatremia.

Wednesday, a doctor with the state Medical Examiner's Office testified on behalf of the state that the injuries suffered by Jarrett were consistent with drowning.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations on Friday.


Kamal Wallace


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