Hannah Overton convicted of killing foster son

Relates to:
Date: 2007-09-08
Source: caller.com

Hannah Overton convicted of killing foster son

September 8, 2007
Mary Ann Cavazos

CORPUS CHRISTI — As the judge read the verdict -- guilty of capital murder -- Hannah Overton grimaced but shed no tears. Her family and friends first broke the silence with sniffles that built into sobs for the mother of five convicted of causing the death of 4-year-old foster child Andrew Burd.

Her husband, Larry Overton, who also is charged with the boy's death, held his wife for several minutes as tears streamed down his face and then watched as she was led away by deputies. His capital murder trial is set for Sept. 24.

Jurors heard nearly three weeks of testimony in 214th District Judge Jose Longoria's courtroom and deliberated for more than 10 hours before reaching their decision Friday.

Longoria will sentence Overton at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Prosecutors have agreed not to seek the death penalty. Under Texas law, capital murder carries only two possible sentences: death or life in prison without parole.

Overton was accused of forcing the boy to drink a mixture of water and Cajun spices as punishment on Oct. 2.

But the instructions to the jury pointed out that Overton could be found guilty either by intentionally or knowingly causing his death by making him drink the mixture or by failing to seek medical care.

During the trial, prosecutors questioned why Overton and her husband made several phone calls but none to 911, and delayed taking the boy to a clinic for more than 1 1/2 hours. One of the doctors who treated the boy that day testified their delay in seeking help reduced his chances for survival.

When polled, all 12 jurors said they found her guilty because of her failure to act.

A gag order issued by Longoria prevents prosecutors and Overton's attorneys from commenting on the verdict until after Overton is sentenced. Some friends and family of Overton did not want to comment following the verdict.

During the trial, Overton, a former licensed vocational nurse, admitted she gave Andrew a cup of water mixed with spices but said it wasn't to punish or harm him.

Her attorneys also argued Andrew had behavioral problems and an eating disorder and ingested something on his own to cause the toxic sodium levels.

Sharon Hamil, Andrew's foster mother for the 18 months before he lived with the Overtons, said she remembered a much different boy.

"When I had Andrew I didn't have any problems," Hamil said. "To me he was a happy, typical child."

The Overtons were in the process of adopting Andrew, who had lived with them since June 2006.

Hamil, who testified at the trial but was not in the courtroom to hear the verdict, said she was surprised when she heard of the outcome.

"I feel bad for her and for her family," Hamil said. "Deep down I didn't think they would find her guilty."

Contact Mary Ann Cavazos at 886-3623 or cavazosm@caller.com

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