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2011-04-07

Decade later, alleged sexual assault case sees light

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

The adage goes: "The wheels of justice grind slowly but exceedingly fine ..." applies to the case of a former Lakehills resident who nearly beat the clock regarding a statute of limitations on his alleged crime - but not quite.
On Monday, March 28, a Bandera County Grand Jury indicted Michael Paul Odom for sexual assault. Sgt. Jose Barretto of the Bandera County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division said officers with the Aransas Pass Sheriff's Department arrested Odom the following night. Ironically, the arrest occurred simultaneously as KENS-5 reporter Karen Grace on a 10 pm newscast asked for the public's help in locating the suspect.
"Before Karen's story was over, he was in custody," Barretto said. He said deputies with the BCSO would extradite Odom to Bandera as quickly as possible. However, by Tuesday, April 5, Odom remained incarcerated in the Aransas County Law Enforcement Center. Barretto speculated that perhaps Odom's attorney had filed court motions to prevent his client from being transferred to Bandera County. "Usually we do not have much trouble with in-state transport of indicted prisoners," Barretto said.
Repeated calls to Aransas County Sheriff Bill Mills at 361-729-2222 to ascertain the reason behind the seeming delay also went unanswered.
At the time of his arrest, Odom was living in Rockport, but still has vehicles registered in Bandera County and owns property here, Barretto indicated.
The alleged crime perpetrated against an unidentified then-14 year old female 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 Barretto 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.
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," Barretto 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 a babysitter for Odom's children. According to the law enforcement report, after falling asleep on the couch, she awakened as Odom was invasively assaulting her. 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," Barretto indicated.
At the time of the alleged sexual assault, the victim was babysitting Odom's stepchildren, an 11-year-old boy and a 7-year old girl. Shortly, after, the two siblings became embroiled in a criminal proceeding also involving a sexual assault.
Although the boy eventually confessed to the crime, he later recanted and both he and his sister identified Odom as the sexual predator.
After confessing to assaulting his sister at knifepoint, the boy was convicted of aggravated sexual assault in October 2002. He was incarcerated in the Texas Youth Commission until turning 16. In February 2006, he was transferred to the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, where he remains incarcerated at the Gib Lewis Unit in Woodville.
Since the conviction of Jesse Ray Moore, who is now 21, his aunt, Brenda Briggs of Devine, and grandmother, Beverly Hays of Lakehills, have worked tirelessly to have the case reopened. However, in an interview, they indicated that, so far, authorities have been reluctant to delve into the closed case.
The women remain optimistic that with Odom's recent indictment and arrest, light would be shed onto Moore's case. However, as local law enforcement officers noted, only 216th District Attorney Bruce Curry has authority to re-investigate Moore's case.
Regarding Odom's indictment, Barretto 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," Barretto 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." According to Barretto, the law is more lenient now. "We've learned how to deal with this sort of crime better.
In an interview, both Chief Deputy Richard Smith and Barretto noted that the publicity surrounding Odom's indictment and arrest has empowered other of his potential victims of sexual assault to come forward. According to Barretto, to date, three potential victims and a witness have been interviewed. He expects more as the case moves forward.
"It's difficult to build a case around something that happened several years ago, but one assault is alleged to have happened last Christmas," he said.
Additionally, Odom's father, Timothy Dale Odom, 53, was convicted of indecency with an 8-year-old child. Although sentenced to 12 years in the Department of Criminal Justice, he apparently served just five years before being paroled. As a registered sex offender, he was released in July 2010. Timothy Odom currently lives on the family ranch in Lakehills.
For their part, Briggs and Hays expressed little surprise after learning that Michael Paul Odom had not yet been transferred back to Bandera County. "They should put him on suicide watch," Briggs said. "He's a coward and he knows what he'll be facing when he gets back to Bandera County."