Police charged a 61-year-old man with murder 30 years after he allegedly abducted and killed a 12-year-old girl after she got off a Florida school bus, officials said Thursday.
A DNA match from another case helped police identify Jeffrey Norman Crum as the alleged culprit in Jennifer Odom’s death, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said during a press conference. Crum is already serving two life sentences for sexual battery and attempted murder. A grand jury indicted him Monday on first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual battery charges in the Odom case.
“This is a bad guy who is very violent, who enjoyed violence, who enjoyed hurting people, particularly women, particularly taking advantage of them and raping them,” Nienhuis said. “There’s evidence in his history, and some of it is part of the case, that he was very violent when it came to his acts against women.”
Odom went missing on Feb. 19, 1993, in Pasco County. Law enforcement and volunteers scoured the area, searching 60 square miles, officials said. Six days later, on Feb. 25, a man and woman found Odom’s body in an abandoned orange grove. Her backpack and clarinet case, which were not with her body, were discovered two years later by a couple hunting for scrap metal.
Investigators have focused on a blue truck over the years. Odom’s classmates told officers they saw a faded blue pickup truck slowly following Odom as she walked home.
Hundreds of leads were followed over the years and the investigation was never closed, Nienhuis said. As technology advanced, investigators on the case had evidence tested and retested.
DNA evidence from a separate Pasco County case helped detectives identify Crum as a suspect in Odom’s death. There were no matches or leads in a national DNA database, but in recent years the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which had been comparing DNA to find close matches in the system, identified one of Crum’s family members — which then led them to Crum.
Crum, who police had not identified as a suspect in Odom’s case before then, quickly became the number one suspect in the girl’s death. Dozens of people were interviewed after Crum’s name came up, and police built a case against him.
Police would not share many details because of the open case, but officials said Crum owned a blue truck and was familiar with the area where Odom was taken and killed.
Prosecutors will treat this as a death penalty in the case, State Attorney Bill Gladson said.
“This is every parent’s worst nightmare,” he said. “This is a thing that keeps parents up at night, worrying about their children.”
Nienhuis said he would not be surprised if there were other victims and asked anyone with information to come forward.