Hannah Freed; Capital Murder ‘Salt Poisoning’ Case Dismissed
CORPUS CHRISTI — A prosecutor on Wednesday dismissed the capital murder case against a South Texas woman after an appeals court in the fall overturned her conviction in the 2006 salt poisoning death of her 4-year-old foster son.
Nueces County District Attorney Mark Skurka said he dismissed the case against Hannah Overton of Corpus Christi after looking at the facts and circumstance of the case following the appeals court’s reversal. He said that included re-interviewing key witnesses and consulting some of the medical experts involved in the case.
In September, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, citing poor legal help at her 2007 trial, overturned her capital murder conviction in the death of Andrew Burd. Overton was released on bond in December after prosecutors said she would be retried. She had served more than seven years of a life prison term.
Overton and her husband were adopting Burd, a child who had been in the foster care system more than a year. He was living with the Overtons and their children when he died Oct. 3, 2006, of salt poisoning.
At her trial, prosecutors contended Overton fed the child a mixture of water and Cajun seasoning, causing sodium poisoning. Overton has always maintained her innocence. She had said that the boy had emotional and medical problems, including an eating disorder that made him consume odd food items.
Overton’s lawyer, Cynthia Orr, told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that when she called Overton to deliver the news, Overton’s five children erupted in cheers while their mother sobbed. “Hannah was crying pretty uncontrollable but clearly out of joy, and the kids were just really thrilled,” Orr said.
Skurka was not the district attorney during the trial or a prosecutor on the case. He confirmed to the newspaper that the case was dismissed without prejudice, which means the case still could be brought back to a grand jury if new evidence surfaced.
Orr praised Skurka for his decision, calling him “courageous.”