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DNA Match Leads to Murder Charge in Brutal 1993 Killing of 12-Year-Old Jennifer Odom
Jeffrey Norman Crum, 61, was indicted last week for the murder, kidnapping, and sexual battery of 12-year-old Jennifer Odom that took place 30 years ago.
DNA analysis has led to an arrest in a Tampa-area cold case from 1993 involving the killing of a young girl who was on her way home from school.
Jeffrey Norman Crum, 61, was indicted last week for the murder, kidnapping, and sexual battery of 12-year-old Jennifer Odom, according to Bill Gladson, state attorney for Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit.
Jennifer — who was described as a “water skier and a good all-around kid” by Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis in a press conference last week — was last seen alive on February 19, 1993. The preteen was abducted after stepping off her school bus in Pasco County, according to the sheriff’s office.
Six days later, on February 25, her body was discovered in an orange grove in neighboring Hernando County, and it appeared that she had been viciously attacked. “We’re not exactly sure how long her abductor kept her captive or when exactly the murder took place, but we are relatively confident the murder took place in that field,” Nienhuis said at the press conference.
At the time of the murder, the case had very few leads. “It was reported that she may have been followed by a full-size faded blue pickup truck that was observed traveling slowly behind her as she walked toward her home from the bus stop,” according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
A massive manhunt for the perpetrator and the blue truck ensued, but the case remained cold for decades. Authorities eventually found the girl's bookbag and clarinet case, which had fingerprints on it, nearly two years later in a rural area in western Hernando County, deputies said,
Over the years, law enforcement never gave up searching for “that little glimmer of hope that we might be able to get that smoking gun,” Nienhuis said. As technology advanced, investigators on the case had evidence tested and retested.
Crum, a convicted sex offender, was already in prison on a life sentence for two counts of sexual battery with a weapon or force for a 1992 incident involving a 17-year-old girl. Investigators noticed that Jennifer's case had undeniable similarities in circumstances to the 1992 case. Crum also reportedly owned a blue pickup truck in the 1990s.
In the 1992 incident, the victim was abducted after stepping off her school bus in Pasco County. The dean’s list student “was horribly attacked and was sexually assaulted," Nienhuis said at the press conference. "Brutally is an understatement," he added. "She actually had injuries to her head and skull that were very significant, and she was left for dead. Fortunately, the victim survived.”
Law enforcement were able to get a full DNA profile on the perpetrator in that case, but didn’t have any hits in CODIS (the national DNA database) until 2015, when they were finally able to identify Crum through a match with his son’s DNA, according to the sheriff.
Crum is currently being held without bond at the Hernando County Jail, and if convicted, could get the death penalty. Authorities suspect he may have committed additional crimes and are asking anyone who may recognize him from the 1980s or '90s to contact them.