TAMPA (Court TV/Scripps News Tampa) — Florida authorities say they have arrested the person who kidnapped and killed Jennifer Odom in 1993.
Odom was 12 when she went missing on Feb. 19, 1993. She was last seen getting off her school bus around 3 p.m. to walk to her rural Dade City home. Hernando County Sheriff’s Office officials said the short walk was just 200 yards, but she never made it home.
Her body was found nearly a week later, on Feb. 25, by a couple searching an abandoned orange grove in southwest Hernando County.
Now, authorities say Jeffrey Crum, 61, is the man responsible for her death.
Kids on the bus reported seeing a faded blue pickup truck slowly following her as she walked home, according to the sheriff’s office. That truck was the subject of the investigation for 30 years, Sheriff Al Nienhuis said.
Detective George Loydgren, who the sheriff said tirelessly investigated Odom’s murder, said Crum lived in the area where Odom was taken from and that he did own a blue truck.
Two years after her body was found, on Jan. 5, 1995, a couple looking for scrap metal in a rural area of Hernando County found Odom’s backpack and clarinet case.
The clothes she was wearing when she went missing, which included a red pullover sweater and a zip-up Hooters jacket, have never been found.
Nienhuis said almost 13 months to the day before Odom was kidnapped, in 1992, a 17-year-old girl in Pasco County was brutally beaten and sexually assaulted in a wooded area after she got off the school bus.
“Brutally is an understatement,” Nienhuis said.
DNA was collected from that crime and put into evidence. In 2015, a full DNA profile was created from that evidence, but at the time, they couldn’t find a full match, authorities said. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement did more testing on the DNA and found a familial match, which turned out to be Crum’s son.
After authorities matched the DNA to Crum, he was arrested in February 2015 for the 1992 attack. He’s currently serving two life sentences for it.
On Monday, the evidence in the Odom case was presented to a grand jury. They recommended indictments for first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault, officials said.
Crum is now charged in Hernando County for Odom’s death and is back in the county jail.
Nienhuis said over the years, the sheriff’s office received anonymous tips about Odom’s murder that led them to believe “100%” that there are people out there with more information on her murder. He asked those people, and any other possible victims of Crum, to reach out to authorities.
The sheriff said they want to make “absolutely sure” Crum is held accountable for Odom’s death.
Nienhuis, along with several other law enforcement officials, spoke on Thursday about how the closure in this case was only made possible through collaboration between departments and the dedication to finding the person responsible.
The sheriff said detectives likely looked into thousands of leads over the last 30 years, tested and retested items, and revisited some leads to make sure nothing was missed. In the last 10 years, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) helped the sheriff’s office digitally scan every piece of evidence in the case — more than 75,000 pieces of paper.
“The investigation never stopped,” Nienhuis said.
This story was originally published by Scripps News Tampa, an E.W. Scripps Company.