In 2007, Corpus Christi mom Hannah Overton was charged and later convicted of capital murder for the death of Andrew Burd, a 4-year-old boy she and her husband were in the process of adopting. Andrew died on October 3, 2006, in a rare and mystifying case of salt poisoning, which prosecutors claimed resulted from Hannah force-feeding the boy salt as punishment for bad behavior.
The prosecution charged Hannah with murder by omission, meaning that she provided Andrew with a lethal dose of salt and did not call 911. Because she did not seek medical care, the prosecution charged her with murder for intentionally not helping Andrew. The jury convicted Hannah and she spent over six years in prison
The Supposed Facts
Hannah is angry with Andrew. She is upset that Andrew is causing trouble all day. She punishes him by giving him a dose of seasoning that will make him uncomfortable and thirsty. However, unlike past times, this time Hannah hands out a lethal dose. There is too much sodium for his malnourished body to handle. As Andrew begins to suffer the effects of the toxin that is consuming his body, it becomes clear that something horrible is wrong with him. He starts vomiting; his body is attempting to force the toxins out. This continues for nearly two hours. Hannah is not oblivious to his medical condition; her reaction is to call friends, her husband, and her church members for help. She even referenced medical books that discuss shock. Yet, despite her growing concern, she does not call 911 or rush him to the hospital. Instead, she waits for her husband to return home, continues making calls and finally, after two hours, takes him to an Urgent Care facility.
TheTexas Penal Code provides that an omission where there is a duty to act is considered an intentional act. Thus, a mom or guardian, who has a statutorily defined duty to act, who by omission does not provide a child with proper medical care has committed a criminal act. Therefore, based on the facts above, Hannah Overton committed murder by intentionally not fulfilling her duty to provide Andrew with medical care.
The “Real Facts”
The real facts are unclear, which compelled the Texas Appellate Court to overturn the sentence. There is evidence that Andrew suffered from Pica, which is a disorder common among foster children wherein the child develops an appetite for harmful and non-nutritional items such as chalk, soil, and glass. It is likely that substances inside Andrew due to his Pica disorder may have caused his death, not his sodium overdose. It seems that the salt poisoning, which was too low to cause harm, had no correlation with Andrew’s death.
Upon Hannah’s release from prison, she was reunited with her family. She and her family were also able to finally mourn the unfortunate death of Andrew Burd.
If you are faced with murder charges, know that you are likely facing a formidable prosecution. As such, you need an attorney on your side that will stand up for your rights. Contact the law firm of Christopher Abel, an experienced criminal defense attorney.