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Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida • Page 75
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Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida • Page 75

Tampa Bay Timesi
St. Petersburg, Florida
Issue Date:

6 Monday, February 19, 2007 St. Petersburg Times CIR Citrus Times I for more Citrus County news mow Today marks 14 years since the unsolved abduction and subsequent murder of Jennifer Odom. Her mother says she cries a bit more each year. "The reality is that Jennifer is gone and will never be in our lives again. Nothing is going to change that." Renee Converse, Jennifer Odom's mother only they "cry a little more," Renee Converse said. "The reality is that Jennifer is gone and will never be in our lives again. Nothing is going to change that," Renee Converse But she's thankful for what they do know: "We are blessed that we have this much closure. We're not looking for her. We know where she is." A Web site has been set up by the Hernando Sheriff's Office with pictures and information about Jennifer Odom: Jennifer Anyone with information is asked to call 1-888-785-8308. Material from Times archives was used in compiling this report. Jonathan Abel canbe reached at or (352) 754-6114. of southeast Hernando County. Her case has gone cold ever' since. Seven thousand leads have come in to the Hernando Sheriff's Office in the last 14 years. The murder has been featured on Unsolved Mysteries. Authorities even brought one man before a grand jury, but he was not indicted. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't do something in the case," said Hernando cold case Detective Mike Nelson. Some possible suspects are around locally and some have moved to other states, but Nelson said he hasn't zeroed in on any single person. So the mystery drags on for Jennifer Odom, even as Jessica Lunsford's case seems poised for a resolution. "Not knowing who that per- BY JONATHAN ABEL Timei Staff Writer Murder forms strange associations. Take Jennifer Odom and Jes- ska Lunsford, two girls whose lives never overlapped. One was 12, the other was 9. Both were abducted and murdered on the North Suncoast. And in death, their lives have been linked. These days, with John Couey being tried in Miami-Dade on charges of killing Lunsford, it's hard not to think of the Odom case, and the justice that the dead girl has yet to receive. Fourteen years ago today, on Feb. 19, 1993, Jennifer Odom was snatched from her bus stop in rural Pasco County. Hundreds of people searched for six days until her body was found in an orange grove in an out-of-the-way part country. Forensic evidence was being reprocessed. A slide show was put together with photos of Jennifer Odom set to a mournful sound track. Her parents spoke. The event generated attention and hundreds of leads far more than in any of the other dozen or so unsolved murders in Hernando County. "That just, reinforces how much this case still pulls on the community," Nelson said. "One of these days one of those phone calls will come in that will make all the difference in the world." Since that press conference, however, life has marched on for Jennifer's family. Her grandfather passed away. Her younger sister, Jessica, became engaged. And as the date of Jennifer's abduction rolled around again this year, her family dealt with the same pain it does every day, 7' "If they catch someone, we're going to be thrown into the spotlight," Clark Converse said. "Learning how to deal with a trial and confronting this person is going to throw us to square one in learning to deal with this." "It's going to be a bittersweet finale," Renee Converse said. A year ago, the Hernando Sheriff's Office held a press conference to reinvigorate the case. It announced that the FBI's National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime was getting involved. The FBI would help look for similar cases around the m.i uwrt" i t- 'mil I i.l ft 1 fight for the seat on the 'v ii appeals FMliiig 6Qi iistrieS Despite losing an election and a court case, Nancy Robinson continues to Time line I Commissioner Rose Rocco I 1 I son is, you look at everybody," said Renee Converse, Jennifer's mother. "Was it somebody she knew? Somebody she didn't know?" "There's a real chance that the person who did it is somebody we have contact with," added Clark Converse, Renee's husband. The couple say they've done everything possible to cooperate in finding Jennifer's killer. They want the person found so that no one else gets hurt. But they also talk about how an arrest would dredge up the pain once again. 4 v- Irfjif the seat she held for 14 years. Rocco successfully fought off the challenge, arguing that the law requires her to move into the district only before the election results are made official. The appeal, if heard, moves the case further toward setting statewide precedent. As it is, elected offices have different requirements. Some officials must live in the district at the time of swearing-in. But county commissioners are required to be residents "at the time of election." The Rocco vs. Robinson battle centers on when exactly "election" took place. The appeal could take months, although the appellate court could move it faster, Mason said. Asjylyn Loder can be reached at (352) AEROSEAL Certified Duct Sealing 10-Year 10-Year Up to 30 Removal NOV.7,2006 Rose Rocco beats four-term Commissioner Hannah "Nancy" Robinson by 1,444 votes. NOV. 14, 2006 After a party thrown in honor of her last County Commission meeting, Robinson sues to keep the seat she held for14 years. NOV. 20, 2006 A judicial order temporarily bars Rocco from taking office. DEC 21, 2006 Judge John Booth rules in Roc-co's favor, and she is sworn in. BY ASJYLYN LODER Times Staff Writer BROOKSVILLE County Commissioner Rose Rocco won't necessarily stay that way. Ousted Commissioner Hannah "Nancy" Robinson and political gadfly Janey Baldwin appealed a judge's ruling that gave Rocco the disputed District 2 seat. Robinson contested Roc-co's win, saying Rocco wasn't entitled to hold office because she didn't live in the Spring Hill district Election Day. Baldwin joined Robinson's suit as a "plaintiff intervenor." "I clearly think that Judge (John) Booth reached the wrong conclusion," said Joe Mason, Baldwin's attorney. The case is now in the hands of the 5th District Court of Appeal. Robert Morris Robinson's Rose Rocco, left, won the election and a judge ruled in her favor, but Nancy Robinson won't concede the race. attorney, could not be reached Friday, and Robinson did not return calls for comment "She can appeal all she wants," said Rocco, seeming disgusted. "The citizens spoke. I won. I think she needs to move on." Rocco, in her third try for a County Commission seat, defeated Robinson by 1,444 votes. But Robinson sued to keep If JURY from 1 Disallowed confession becomes a is test pie remember the most. And a good number know the gruesome fact that she was buried alive. Legal posturing between the prosecution and defense is also stalling the process. The defense wants a jury that doesn't expect it to give reasons why Couey is innocent in the 9-year-old Homosassa girl's death. They aren't likely to present evidence at all, just poke holes in the prosecution's case. Couey is charged with kidnapping, raping and murdering Jessica in 2005. Assistant Public Couey trial updates For continuing coverage of the John 4 Couey -T tnal, including a. blogonthe latest developments, visit tampabay. comcouey. Defender Daniel Lewan also went to extreme lengths to make sure the jurors don't know about the confession Couey gave the night of his arrest, which the judge later suppressed. i Lewan asks dozens of questions, much to the chagrin of court officials and observers, in an effort to jog the memory of the potential jurors about a crime that is about 2 years old. The inquiries will only get more difficult as the process goes forward. After today's court holiday, another week of prequalification takes place. Then those who survive will face tougher questions about their thoughts on the death penalty. Opening statements, which court officials once thought would being this week, likely won't come until early March. As Circuit Judge Ric Howard has said often, "This is not a sprint it's a marathon." But as one media blogger put it last week, "It's more like an Iditarod." John Frank canbe reached at or 860-7312. ffi- litmu County Commission. JAN. 9, 2007 Rocco attends her first meeting as a county commissioner. FEB. 16, 2007 Robinson appeals the judge's ruling to the 5th District Court of Appeal. WHAT'S NEXT? The clerk of Circuit Court has 50 days to put together a page-numbered record of the case so far. After that, attorneys Robert Morris Jr. and Joe Mason have 20 days to file their appeal argument on behalf of Robinson and Janey Baldwin. I' 'lilJI i I. nil" FACTORY AUTHORIZED DEALER Turn to the Experts! Area for details on offer, guarantees and 271174-01 The Five Star Edition of the Carrier Infinity 2-Speed High Efficiency Puron System with UV Light and Infinity Air Purifier removes and kills more airborne germs and allergens. It kills bacteria, mold and viruses on the indoor coil. Right now you can get a cool cash rebate of up to $1,425 on a new Five Star Edition tne Carrier Infinity 2-Speed High Efficiency System, most energy-efficient heating cooling system you can buy. 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