El Mirage teen found guilty in murder of 15-year-old girl
by D.S. Woodfill
- Jul. 5, 2011 10:11 PM
The Arizona Republic
An El Mirage teen was found guilty Tuesday of murdering his former 15-year-old girlfriend in a crime that stunned a community and veteran law-enforcement authorities.
A Maricopa County Superior Court jury, which spent three weeks listening to arguments and graphic witness testimony, found Thomas James Odom guilty of first-degree murder but found him not guilty on a count of attempted sexual assault.
Family members of the victim, Iva Rae Herman, wept and held one another as the guilty verdict was announced to gasps in the courtroom. Odom, 17, showed no emotion, never turning to his father and other family who sat behind him.
Judge Karen O'Connor set sentencing for Aug. 19 in downtown Phoenix. Odom faces life in prison. He was tried as an adult but as a juvenile will not be considered for the death penalty.
Jurors found Odom bludgeoned Herman to death with rocks in April 2010 inside a drainage ditch tunneling under a street in El Mirage. She was discovered a few hours later by two boys.
Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Paul Kittredge pointed to blood evidence found on Odom's watch that matched the victim's, a police tape recording of Odom admitting guilt to his father and testimony from Odom's former cellmate, who prosecutors said had information about the crime that was never publicly released.
Defense attorney Ken Countryman contended other people killed Herman, saying signs pointed to a nearby group home for troubled kids.
He said the El Mirage Police Department wanted to bring quick closure to the case because of a potential public backlash related to crime problems around the culverts. That caused them to rush to the conclusion that Odom was the killer and fail to follow other leads, Countryman said.
Mike Frazier, El Mirage chief of police at the time and now the Surprise police chief, said Herman and her family got the justice they deserved.
Frazier, whose career spans nearly four decades, including 32 years with the Phoenix Police Department, said he was shocked by the crime.
"That was clearly one of the more brutal ones I've ever seen. It may be the most brutal," Frazier said.
Steve Campbell, El Mirage police chief, said the guilty verdict was a huge relief and will bring a sense of closure for his community, department and the family.
Herman's death triggered a push by a group of residents who demanded the city cap the eight culverts spanning the city.
The group argued the culverts, which are essentially tunnels large enough to walk through, presented a public-safety threat. The City Council recently voted to allocate $200,000 in next fiscal year's budget to build the barriers.
Other link : 1. http://tucsoncitizen.com/arizona-news/2011/03/24/june-trial-set-for-teen-accused-in-el-mirage-murder-of-girl/
Arizona News from The Arizona Republic
June trial set for teen accused in El Mirage murder of girl
by D.S. Woodfill
on Mar. 24, 2011, under Arizona Republic News
A murder trial is scheduled to begin in early June for Thomas James Odom. Odom is accused of bludgeoning 15-year-old Iva Rae Herman and disposing of her body in a drainage culvert at 126th Avenue and Thunderbird Road.THE CASE
Iva’s mother told detectives that her daughter went to the El Mirage Branch Library after school to work on a project on April 21, the day she was killed. Detectives say surveillance video at the library, which is less than a mile from the crime scene, showed the girl leaving with a young man earlier that day. Library records showed Odom had signed onto a computer about 30 minutes earlier.
Odom, now 17, was later questioned and booked into a Maricopa County jail on $750,000 bond.
Odom, who was charged as an adult with first-degree murder and attempted sexual assault, pleaded not guilty in May.
An autopsy showed Iva died of multiple blunt-force traumas to the head.
Paul Kittredge, a deputy county attorney who is prosecuting the case, has said the homicide is one of the most violent crimes he has prosecuted in his 20-year career.THE TRIAL
Jerry Cobb, spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, said jury selection is due to take place June 7 at the Maricopa County Superior Court building in downtown Phoenix.
If the selection process goes smoothly, opening arguments will start the following day.THE AFTERMATH
Iva’s death triggered a push by a group of residents who demanded the city cap the eight culverts spanning Dysart Road to Cactus Road in the Lower El Mirage Wash.
They argued the culverts, which are essentially large tunnels large enough to walk through, presented too much of a public-safety threat.
In a Channel 15 (KNXV) story in July, Iva’s mother said the culvert was “the perfect place to kill somebody.”
The City Council, which includes five new members who campaigned on a public-safety message, voted unanimously on March 10 to pay for design work on the barriers.
Public Works Director Lance Calvert said construction should begin within six months.
El Mirage murder trial continues with teen in spotlight
by D.S. Woodfill
- Jun. 17, 2011 12:08 PM
The Arizona Republic
By some accounts, Thomas Odom is like any other 17-year-old.
More than a year ago, he was considered a good student, loved to skateboard, played in a youth soccer league and argued with his dad over curfew.
Prosecutors accuse the teen of committing a crime of such extraordinary violence that it shocked seasoned police officials who handled the case.
Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Paul Kittredge on Wednesday told a Superior Court jury in downtown Phoenix that Odom bludgeoned to death 15-year-old Valley Vista High student Iva Rae Herman in an El Mirage drainage ditch. He then packed her mouth and throat full of sand to make sure she was dead and tried establishing a flimsy alibi to cover up the crime, Kittredge said.
Odom's defense attorney, Ken Countryman, said that others killed Herman, saying all signs pointed to a nearby group home for troubled kids.
He said the El Mirage Police Department, to bring quick closure to the case because of a public backlash, rushed to the conclusion that Odom was the killer.
What is certainis that shortly after Herman left the El Mirage Branch Library at Ventura Street and First Avenue on the afternoon of April 21, 2010, she was never again seen alive.
Her body was discovered around 6 p.m. that day in a drainage tunnel. Odom, then 16, was arrested the next day and later charged as an adult with first-degree murder and attempted sexual assault.
He pleaded not guilty in May.
As the shock of the murder rippled through the community of 32,000 residents, people started demanding the city cap its eight culverts, including the one Herman was killed in.
They argued that the culverts are a public-safety threat. The city plans to spend $200,000 to construct the barriers this year.
Thomas Barthel, a friend of Herman's and acquaintance of Odom's, told The Republic he was stunned when he learned of Herman's murder and that Odom was arrested for it.
"It shocked us, like, how the heck could he do something like that," Barthel said. "Nobody thought he was capable of that because he really seemed like a nice guy."
Kittredge told jurors during opening arguments that there was ample evidence pointing to Odom's guilt.
He told the jury police found Herman's DNA on Odom's watch, took photos of injuries on Odom consistent with a struggle and tape-recorded a conversation between Odom and his father in which the teen admitted guilt.
Kittredge also told jury members how Odom attempted to establish an alibi at a parent-teacher conference at his school the night of Herman's murder.
"He put down the time that he appeared for the parent-teacher conference, something that no one else did," Kittredge said.
Countryman told jurors that police did not investigate the crime thoroughly and rushed to close the case because they feared the murder would trigger a public backlash
"These culverts have been a problem in the city for years," he said, saying they were havens for criminal mischief including drug users.
"They (police) had a reason to rush to a conclusion," he said. "The chief of police knew he had a problem because he knew other offenses had occurred in culverts and he knew that the residents were extremely upset that the culverts hadn't been dealt with. They never provided any security, they never provided any lighting, they never did anything about the graffiti (or) the drug use."
Countryman said the state's claims that video surveillance showing Odom and Herman leaving the library were not true. The jury would also learn that the DNA from Odom's watch is not what prosecutors were claiming.
Countryman said signs point to a nearby group home for troubled youths as possibly housing the real killer. He said an iPod belonging to Herman later turned up at that home and some residents there displayed injuries such as scratches and bruises shortly after the murder.
Superior Court officials expect closing arguments could come Monday.
El Mirage teen charged in slaying of 15-year-old girlfriend
by Lisa Halverstadt
- Apr. 29, 2010 09:37 AM
The Arizona Republic
A 16-year-old from El Mirage has been charged in his girlfriend's slaying.
An autopsy revealed that Valley Vista High student Iva Rae Herman, 15, died April 21 of multiple blunt-force traumas to the head.
Authorities believe that Thomas James Odom, Herman's boyfriend of at least a year, was responsible.
The 5-foot-3-inch, 130-pound high school student has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder and is in Maricopa County jail on $750,000 bond.
Detectives are trying to determine motives, El Mirage Assistant Police Chief Bill Louis said.
Police began investigating Herman's slaying after two boys found the body of a partially clothed young woman in a drainage culvert underneath 126th Avenue and Thunderbird Road. The boys showed a nearby restaurant employee the body, and she called police.
Officers arrived to find the woman had massive head injuries but no obvious wounds elsewhere, Louis said.
About 9 p.m. on April 21, Herman's mother approached Louis to say her daughter hadn't returned home that night. She was concerned the girl in the culvert might be her daughter.
Herman's mother told detectives that Iva went to the El Mirage Branch Library after school that day to work on a project, Louis said.
Detectives went to the library, less than a mile from the crime scene, to request surveillance video.
Footage showed Iva leaving the library with a young man about 3:30 p.m.
Friends and family members told police that Odom had been at the library.
An Internet user log confirmed Odom had signed onto a library computer just before 3 p.m., Louis said.
Police pursued information about Odom and conducted surveillance at a Peoria charter school he attended on April 22.
Detectives followed Odom's bus as he left school and arrested him about 1:45 p.m. when he returned to El Mirage.
Odom didn't fight with police, Louis said.
"He was very stoic," Louis said. "He acted unusual for the circumstances."
Detectives took Odom to the police station. They said they noted what appeared to be fresh scratches and bruises on his upper body.
The teen asked to talk to his father after police advised him of his Miranda rights. Odom later said he wouldn't speak to detectives, Louis said.
Odom initially was booked into a juvenile detention center but was moved last Friday to a Maricopa County jail and charged as an adult.
Police are hoping to gather more information about Odom's activities on the day of the homicide.
Photos : The murderer Thomas James Odom
and the victim Iva Rae Herman
Rest in Peace Iva Rae
God bless you and your family