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2012-11-15

Venue change, special prosecutor for Odom

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Pending a plea bargain, the long-awaited trial of alleged sexual predator Michael Paul Odom of Lakehills will eventually take place - but it won't be in Bandera County.
During a pre-trial hearing on Thursday, Nov. 8, 216th District Judge Keith Williams granted the prosecution's motion for change of venue to Kendall County, according to Assistant District Attorney Steven Wadsworth. In addition, District Attorney Bruce Curry has asked for assistance from the office of the Texas Attorney General with the case in the form of a special prosecutor.
"The trial date will likely be set in the early part of 2013," Wadsworth wrote in an email. "There are no more trial dates available in Kendall County this year."
On March 2011, a Bandera County Grand Jury indicted Odom for felony sexual assault. Additionally, he was indicted in August that same year for felony aggravated sexual assault. What makes the alleged assaults problematic, however, was that they purportedly occurred a decade ago.
After the April indictment, Odom was arrested in Rockport, according to Sgt. José Baretto, who then served as director of the Bandera County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division.
The alleged crime against an unidentified then 14-year-old female had purportedly occurred in 2001. At that time, the mother of the teenager filed a complaint of sexual assault with the BCSO; however, the investigation apparently went nowhere. As Baretto explained, personnel with Child Protective Services and the sheriff's office lost communication. In addition, the girl involved ostensibly couldn't be found for an interview, so the case was closed.
Victim denied closure
However, closure never happened for the alleged victim, who is now a more self-assured 24-year-old. "She came in to the sheriff's office in December 2010 and I interviewed her," Baretto said. "She was still carrying it around in her all these years and wanted the case reopened."
The alleged sexual assault occurred when the teenager was babysitting Odom's children. According to the law enforcement report, after falling asleep on the couch, she awakened during Odom's invasive assault. Odom, the alleged victim's cousin, was 24 years old at the time. Although the teenager said she immediately told Odom's wife what had occurred, "nothing was done," Baretto indicated.
Regarding Odom's indictment, Baretto said he had subpoenaed CPS records and conducted extensive interviews with the alleged victim prior to presenting the case to the grand jury. "The victim expressed concern that perhaps Mr. Odom had also hurt other victims in the interim years," Baretto said. "I asked her if she would be willing to testify in front of the grand jury and she said, 'Yes.' She was very brave."
He continued, "At the time the crime was allegedly committed, there was a 10-year statute of limitations on the crime of sexual assault. We made it by just two months."
However, last November Curry dismissed all charges against Odom, citing "newly discovered evidence" and "in the interest of justice."
Regarding the dismissal, Barreto said, "Steve told me, 'We're going to dismiss the charges against Mr. Odom because we had a meeting with his attorney (Patrick Ellis Hundley), who told us both cases had already been presented to a grand jury without indictments and that his client had passed a polygraph test.'"
Second grand jury
However, on May 21, 2012, a second grand jury indicted Odom again on charges of aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault. He was freed on bonds of $35,000 for each charge. While free on bond, Odom must adhere to sexual offender requirements. Additionally, renewed interest in the case has brought to the surface what many construe as a miscarriage of justice involving Odom and the alleged sexual assault of his 7-year-old stepdaughter. After the assault, the girl told law enforcement authorities her brother, Jesse Ray Moore, had been responsible for the crime. Ultimately, the 13-year-old boy confessed to assaulting his sister at knifepoint. In October 2002, he was incarcerated in the Texas Youth Commission until the age of 16. In February 2006, he was transferred to the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to the Gib Lewis Unit in Woodville. Moore was recently moved to a minimum security facility in Kenedy.
However, Moore later recanted his confession and both he and his sister identified Odom as a sexual predator. In a notarized statement, Jesse Ray Moore, who is now 23, said that he and his sister had been Odom's sexual victims.
Since his conviction and incarceration, Moore's grandmother, Beverly Hays and aunt, Brenda Briggs, have worked tirelessly to prove his innocence.
Recently, Moore's sister, Heather, recanted her previous testimony on camera to Brian Collister of the WOAI Trouble Shooters. She named Odom as the alleged perpetrator of the sexual assaults. Heather Moore also told Collister that her mother told her to accuse her brother. "I shouldn't have done it, but I was just a little girl," she said.
The Courier will have more on this developing story in the Nov. 22 edition.