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Foster parents charged in death of 4-year-old boy


Foster parents charged in death of 4-year-old boy

October 14, 2006

Mary Ann Cavazos


Authorities issued arrest warrants for the foster parents of a 4-year-old boy who died last week after investigators say he was fed a mixture of water and Cajun seasonings by his foster mother.

Hannah Overton, 29, was charged with capital murder and her husband, 30-year-old Larry Overton, was charged with injury to a child. Officers arrested the couple late Friday afternoon a short time after District Attorney Carlos Valdez and investigators met to discuss the case. The Overtons' bonds have been set at $250,000 each.

John Gilmore, the attorney for the couple, said they are innocent.

"It was done accidentally and I don't see any criminal activity done here at all. They're both going to plead not guilty," Gilmore said.

Police said the Overtons waited nearly three hours on Oct. 2 before taking Andrew Burd to a medical clinic after he drank the mixture, vomited and drifted in and out of consciousness. He was not breathing when he arrived about 5:20 p.m. and medical staff immediately contacted police.

The boy was taken to Christus Spohn Hospital South but died the following day.

According to arrest affidavits, one of the Overtons' biological children told investigators Hannah Overton watched Andrew on a security camera in a bedroom and used food and pepper as a form of punishment. A neighbor, who lives in the 5900 block of Parkview Drive, told investigators Hannah Overton called her about 2:52 p.m. that day and asked her to watch one of her children because Andrew was intentionally vomiting and defecating and "smearing it everywhere."

"He is not sick, he is doing it to get to me," Hannah told the neighbor, adding he had defecated eight times, the affidavits said.

Police also reported there were signs the boy slept on a piece of plywood in the home.

An autopsy showed high levels of sodium in the boy's blood, which caused his death, according to the Nueces County Medical Examiner's Office.

Linda Shold, Andrew's biological great-aunt, said news of the charges came as a relief.

"I'm so glad they've been charged. I will sleep a little easier but this is just the first step. I want to see them convicted," Shold said. "All he wanted was love."

Andrew, who had been in the care of the couple for several months, was in the process of being adopted by the Overtons through Spaulding for Children, a nonprofit agency based in Houston.

Vikki Finley, the agency's interim president, has said that anyone who applies for adoption is required to pass a criminal background check and a home inspection, complete an orientation and submit outside references. Finley would not comment on the details of the investigation involving the Overtons.

The couple's four biological children were removed from the home by Child Protective Services last week and placed in the temporary custody of relatives.

Officials with the state agency weren't available for comment Friday evening.

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

2006 Oct 14