The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing.

~~~ Albert Einstein

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And a little salt

Andrew Burd spent most of his short life in foster care. He lived with his biological mother for the first two years of his life, before being put into foster care and in the home of Sharon Hamil. The 18 months he spent with Sharon Hamil he was a happy, well adjusted healthy little boy. She had grown children, and her son and daughter in law spent nearly every day with Andrew, and having the benefit of being special education teachers, never saw any problems with him. His foster mother believed that Andrew needed the benefit of being raised in a family- she was widowed and couldn't provide a father figure to the small boy. And so Andrew left her home, and was placed with Larry and Hannah Overton who began the process of adopting him.

The Overton's had a strong religious faith, 4 children of their own and by all appearances seemed to welcome another child into their hearts. You'll read a lot about Hannah, how she loves her children, how she's always put her children first. You'll hear about Hannah Overton, and through the words of her supporters you'll see the perfect mother. A shining example of how a parent ought to be. You'll also hear how she had studied to be an EMT, and LVN- giving her some basic knowledge of medical information.

But this is about Andrew. The four year old boy with a smile that could melt anyone's heart. It's about a little boy tossed into this world on a path that no child should have to take. And, it's about how he died.

In May of 2006, Andrew had a visit as required by CPS- what they refer to as a Wellness Exam. That day, he saw Dr. Cortes who examined him, and wrote a report indicating that Andrew was both mentally and physically healthy. Part of the exam included reporting on Andrew's basic health- how his diet was, how his growth was, a complete physical fitness check. Under "eating disorders" the response was none. Andrew was reported to sleep through the night, in his own bed. He was potty trained and could take care of his basic needs for himself. By all accounts, Andrew was a healthy boy. He approved him as "fit for adoption" by the Overton's. No objections were made to the report, and no one reported any problems they might have thought Andrew had.

By October of 2006, Andrew's health would be questioned. He'd be labeled as having had an eating disorder- he'd be said to have had an endless appetite, always craving more and more food. There would be claims that perhaps he was diabetic, and reports that he'd had his blood sugar tested for 12 weeks prior to his death, and the results were consistent with diabetes. Hints that he might even have suffered from PICA were tossed around. That he often engaged in self mutilation. **In an effort to fully research this case, I requested any information that would back these claims of blood testing and PICA. None was provided.

What happened to Andrew depends on who you ask, and although there are a few common threads in each sides story- the two sides would stake everything on convincing people it was their side that was right. A deserved conviction, or a wronged grieving mother.

On October 2, 2006 Hannah Overton claims that Andrew, on yet another eating binge, began demanding more food despite having just eaten. She, not wanting to give into his request for more food decided to put- according to her- a few sprinkles of Zatarain's seasoning in a sippy cup filled with water. Hannah says she then offered the cup to Andrew, who liked the chili flavor and accepted the water. In the hour and a half after he drank the water, Andrew fell gravely ill. He had trouble breathing, vomited and was said to have displayed severe flu like symptoms. Hannah made a series of phone calls, looked up "shock" in her EMT training book, preformed a breathing treatment on him, checked his vital signs, and finally as he fell in and out of conscientiousness an entire hour and a half later- took him to an urgent care facility. She never once called 911.

From the urgent care facility Andrew was taken to a local hospital, as the urgent care was unable to treat his life threatening condition. Hannah would reportedly make comments like 'she knew it was too much' and could be heard praying to God to make Andrew healthy again.

Andrew's life abruptly ended, and an autopsy concluded that he died of sodium (salt) poisoning and listed a secondary contributing factor of blunt force head trauma. Treating health care workers also noticed bruising on Andrew's body, along with a small, circular injury that was festering on his arm. Testing would conclude that Andrew's sodium level was 240mmol prior to receiving any bolo solutions, and that the sore on his arm was consistent with a burn.

The Overton's were arrested in connection with Andrew's death.

According to arrest affidavits, one of the Overtons' biological children told investigators Hannah Overton watched Andrew on a security camera in a bedroom and used food and pepper as a form of punishment. A neighbor, who lives in the 5900 block of Parkview Drive, told investigators Hannah Overton called her about 2:52 p.m. that day and asked her to watch one of her children because Andrew was intentionally vomiting and defecating and "smearing it everywhere."

"He is not sick, he is doing it to get to me," Hannah told the neighbor, adding he had defecated eight times, the affidavits said.

Police also reported there were signs the boy slept on a piece of plywood in the home. (SOURCE)

Dr Alexandre Rotta, the Pedi Care Doctor who treated Andrew determined that based on his sodium levels, Andrew would have had to digest 23 teaspoons of Zatarain's, a far cry from the 2 or 3 teaspoons that Hannah claims she gave him. Once his levels of sodium raised to a toxic level, he would have suffered difficulty breathing, vomiting, stomach pain, gagging, low blood pressure, and shock. For nearly an hour and a half, Andrew would have been in agony while Hannah waited to take him to get medical attention.

Larry Overton took a plea deal, which allowed him to remain out of jail to care for his remaining children. Hannah Overton took her chances with a trial.

(SOURCE) During the trial, Overton, a former licensed vocational nurse, admitted she gave Andrew a cup of water mixed with spices but said it wasn't to punish or harm him.

Her attorneys also argued Andrew had behavioral problems and an eating disorder and ingested something on his own to cause the toxic sodium levels.

Sharon Hamil, Andrew's foster mother for the 18 months before he lived with the Overtons, said she remembered a much different boy.

Hannah was convicted of of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison.

But the case doesn't end there. Despite the clear signs of abuse- Andrew's favorite bedding was burned in front of him, the festering burn mark on his arm, the statements by his foster siblings that he was often punished by being forced to consume pepper, bruises and scratches in various stages of healing from sleeping on plywood, and even the last fatal act of abuse when he was denied timely medical treatment after being poisoned- Hannah's supporters raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for her appeal. The church she belonged to quickly went on the attack- not at Hannah for her treatment of Andrew, but at the prosecutor who handled the case, the witnesses that testified against her. They started a full on war of words- using blogs and new stories to garner support for Hannah.

Hannah Overton and her highly paid lawyers have a defense for every claim against her:

The burn mark was just an infected scratch. Andrew didn't have insurance to cover medical care- although the paper work had been completed- but she'd taken one of her own children to a doctor for an appointment, and when she mentioned the burn the doctor had suggested treating it with Clorox.

His bedding was burned because he'd soiled it, and although it was his favorite bedding, they'd already bought him new ones and just had not put them on the bed.

He'd only been forced to sleep on the plywood for one night, and after some time was given a sleeping bag for it.

Since he'd had this ongoing eating disorder, someone had suggested lacing his food with a flavor he didn't like. Turned out, he liked the chili flavoring, and so it was put in the water to appease him.

The "pepper" the other children said was used to punish Andrew was mistaken. The family drinks Dr Pepper and often just call it Pepper, which caused confusion for the kids.

That fatal day, Hannah just thought he had symptoms of the flu, and so she repeatedly called a nurse hotline, called friends from her church, looked up shock in her medical books, gave him a shower, took his vital signs... and then as his body began to fully shut down she took him to an urgent care facility.

For everything there is an excuse, a reason as to why what most people would see as abuse, Hannah sees as nothing more than a mother doing her job.

Dozens of news media organizations have picked up Hannah's story- from 20/20 to Christian News Sources. They've picked up Hannah's story, her version of how a child declared "healthy and fit for adoption" one month, could end up dead less than six months later. But it's Hannah's story they have picked up- not Andrew's.

No one wants to talk about Andrew's story, about the suffering he endured, the incredible pain he would have been in the last day of his life. They don't mention that the 23 teaspoons of Zatarain's he would have had to have ingested was almost 100 times the recommended serving size (1/4 teaspoon), which introduced almost 24000mg of salt into his body at 240mg per serving. How, in making Hannah some sort of saint, they've made Andrew a child that was wild, and flawed. They've went as far as to claim that perhaps Andrew- suffering from his never mentioned before eating disorder- might have found a moment alone in which he on his own consumed so much salt that it caused the fatal toxic levels in his blood. The bruising on his head that was listed as a secondary cause of death? Well, that wasn't really what it seemed. Perhaps someone rubbing his head, and the onset of his death caused it. Really, it could have been anything.

There is more to Andrew's story, but sadly, it may be washed away by a flood of support for the woman who was responsible for providing him with care, love, and protection- the woman who didn't fulfill that responsibility.

Hannah's conviction is currently under appeal. You can write letters of support for the conviction to the Appeals Court:

13th Court of Appeals: Corpus Christi Site Nueces County Courthouse 901 Leopard, 10th Floor, Corpus Christi, Texas 78401 - Telephone: (361) 888-0416 Fax: (361) 888-0794

And offer letters of support to the DA's Office who prosecuted the case:
District Attorney's office in Corpus Christi -- Or mail them at Nueces District Attorney; 901 Leopard St.; Corpus Christi, Texas 78401

This is a case which requires your attention. Your support for a child who was wrongly denied the right to live, for a conviction that ensured justice was served, for the prosecutors who fought endlessly to give a voice to a victim who could no longer speak for himself.

*Note: Because this is an ongoing case, and due to the large amount of information pertaining to the case, I will continue to post information, and explore the case more in depth. I would have loved to have been able to present all the information now, but there is a clear need for your support- and I wanted to be able to share as much as possible as quickly as possible. Please check back for more information.

Other posts on this case, by other bloggers:

Salt in the wounds: The death of Andrew Burd and the movement to ...
Salt in the wounds: The death of Andrew Burd and the movement to free his killer. by Trench Reynolds on January 23rd, 2009. Do you know what I hate? Well, most things really but I have something specific in mind today. ...
Shared by: Trench 23/1/09
Stop Child Molesters: Justice for Andrew Burd
I was over reading Lost in Lima Ohio's blog and she has the story of little Andrew Burd. This story is chilling to say the least. Little Andrew Burd thought he was going to be adopted by a wonderful christian woman, Hannah Overton. ...
Shared by: Carisma ~~ 23/1/09
And a little salt - ......Lost In Lima Ohio: A True Crime Blog ...
And a little salt - ......Lost In Lima Ohio: A ... - Andrew Burd spent most of his short life in foster care. He lived with his biological mother for the first two years of his life, before being put into foster ...
Shared by: ~~ 23/1/09
blonde sagacity: Does A Foster Child Have Less Chance of Justice?
"Honesty is my only excuse..." View my complete profile · 100 Things... EMAIL ME · Wikio - Top of the Blogs - Politics · The Drudge Report · Free Republic · World Net Daily · News Busters · Conservative Grapevine · September 11, 2001 ...
Shared by: ALa ~~ 23/1/09
Blog of the Night : Stop The ACLU
Shared by:
Stop the ACLU~~ 24/1/09

Hannah Overton Deserves to Die in Prison « Red Alerts
Shared by: Red Alerts~~ 24/1/09