Florida man serving life terms charged in 1993 killing of 12-year-old girl

Jul 27, 2023, 10:12 AM

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — For three decades, nobody knew for certain what happened to 12-year-old Jennifer Odom after she got off a school bus on a typical day in 1993. The girl was found dead in a Florida orange grove not long after.

Now, authorities in Hernando County say a DNA match has identified her killer as Jeffrey Norman Crum, 61, who is already serving two life sentences for a 2015 sexual battery and attempted murder conviction. State Attorney Bill Gladson said Thursday prosecutors will seek the death penalty in the Odom case.

“This is every parent’s nightmare,” Gladson said at a news conference in Brooksville, a city of about 7,000 people roughly 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Tampa. “I have confidence we have the right person and we have the right aggravators in this particular case to treat it as a death penalty case,”

A grand jury indicted Crum on first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual battery charges, Gladson added. It wasn’t immediately clear if Crum had a lawyer to speak for him about the case.

Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said detectives never stopped working on the case even as the decades passed.

“I can tell you the investigation never stopped,” Nienhuis said.

On Feb. 19, 1993, the day she disappeared, Jennifer got off her school bus at around 3 p.m. in Pasco County, just south of Hernando County. She waved to her friends and began walking the roughly 200-yard (183-meter) distance to her home, but she never made it.

Children who were on the bus told investigators they saw a faded blue pickup truck slowly following Jennifer as she walked home. Six days after she disappeared, her body was found in an orange grove in Hernando County after a massive search that the media closely followed.

Crum has a violent crime history, including a 1981 robbery and a 1985 sexual battery case in Hillsborough County, according to court records.

“This is not someone who should be taken lightly,” Nienhuis said. “This is a bad guy who enjoyed violence.”

Nienhuis said DNA collected from Crum’s past sexual battery case gave them the evidence they needed to charge him in Jennifer’s killing.

“All of us, especially those of us in law enforcement, can think of Jennifer as our sister, our niece, our granddaughter and realize, man, this is a tragedy beyond tragedy,” Nienhuis said.

National News

Associated Press

US judge dismisses Republican challenge over counting of post-Election Day mail ballots in Nevada

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by national and state Republicans that sought to bar Nevada from counting mail ballots received after Election Day. A state law passed by Democrats in 2021 allows election officials to tally ballots received by 5 p.m. on the fourth day after Election […]

17 minutes ago

Boson's mate second class Tyler Boon navigates a U.S. Coast Guard small response boat down the Milw...

Associated Press

Heavily armed security boats patrol winding Milwaukee River during GOP convention

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Instead of kayakers and tour boats, the summertime scene on the Milwaukee River has taken on a solemn tone this week during the Republican National Convention: Around-the-clock patrol boats, some with heavily armed officers. Security planners have had to contend with the winding waterways through Milwaukee near the Fiserv Center RNC convention […]

20 minutes ago

Associated Press

California first state to get federal funds for hydrogen energy hub to help replace fossil fuels

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California will be the first state to receive federal funds under a program to create regional networks, or “hubs,” that produce hydrogen as an energy source for vehicles, manufacturing and generating electricity, officials announced Wednesday. The U.S. Department of Energy said the California Hydrogen Hub will receive an initial $30 million […]

30 minutes ago

Associated Press

Appeals court refuses to lift order blocking rule meant to expand protections for LGBTQ+ students

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday refused to lift a judge’s order temporarily blocking the Biden administration’s new Title IX rule meant to expand protections for LGBTQ+ students. The ruling from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals kept in place a preliminary injunction issued last month by a federal district […]

55 minutes ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Servic...

Associated Press

Trump has given no official info about his medical care for days since an assassination attempt

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Four days after a gunman’s attempt to assassinate former President Donald Trump at a Pennsylvania rally, the public is still in the dark over the extent of his injuries, what treatment the Republican presidential nominee received in the hospital, and whether there may be any long-term effects on his health. Trump’s campaign […]

1 hour ago

Part of a stegosaurus skeleton is displayed at Sotheby's New York in New York, Wednesday, July 10, ...

Associated Press

Stegosaurus fossil fetches nearly $45M, setting record for dinosaur auctions

NEW YORK (AP) — The nearly complete fossilized remains of a stegosaurus fetched $44.6 million at auction Wednesday, Sotheby’s said. The buyer’s name was not disclosed. The fossil, dubbed “Apex,” is considered to be among the most complete ever found, according to the auction house. The price blew past a pre-sale estimate of $4 million […]

2 hours ago

Florida man serving life terms charged in 1993 killing of 12-year-old girl