Family Fights to Overturn Mom's Salt Poisoning Conviction

Charged With Capital Murder: Rush to Judgment?

The Overtons' church community saw the accusations against Hannah and Larry as ludicrous and rallied around the couple, raising nearly $700,000 for their defense.

"What they came up with and what really happened were completely different things," said the Rev. Rod Carver.

"It's so bizarre," Noreen Carver, Rod Carver's wife, said, "because [Hannah Overton's] really the last person you would think would be charged with this type of crime."

The Overtons and their supporters claimed there was a rush to judgment -- that the authorities had never considered alternate theories. The Overtons said that in the four months Andrew had lived with them, he had exhibited excessive tantrums and obsessive eating.

Hannah Overton said she started noticing that Andrew was hoarding food, stealing off the other children's plates and throwing tantrums after mealtime was over. At times, they said, they caught him trying to eat things that weren't even edible.

"Anything that he found, he would try and put in his mouth. He would also eat the cat food, the dog food, out of the trash can," Hannah Overton told "20/20."

The Overtons believe this unexplained behavior might have been linked to Andrew's death.

"Something was wrong with Andrew. I don't know exactly how or what happened to him," Hannah Overton said. "Something caused his sodium levels to rise, and it wasn't me."

While Hannah and Larry Overton awaited separate trials, Hannah Overton gave birth to a baby girl named Emma. Child welfare services placed all five Overton children with loved ones, allowing the couple only supervised visits.

Medical Mystery or Murder?

From day one of Hannah Overton's trial in August 2007, the prosecution portrayed her as a mother who had lost control. Frustrated with a naughty child, prosecutors said, she tried to punish him with seasoning mixed in water and then neglected to get him medical attention, knowing that he was dying.

Detectives questioned why Hannah Overton hadn't called 911, instead driving Andrew to the hospital. One doctor calculated that it would take at least 23 teaspoons of creole seasoning (equivalent to 7 teaspoons of salt) to get Andrew's sodium level as high as it was when he arrived at the hospital.

Medical staff members from the hospital also took the stand, testifying that they noticed bruising and scratching on the child's body when he arrived at the hospital. Prosecutors speculated these marks could be signs of abuse, or a struggle.

"Could it be that you held his nose, held his neck and made him drink this horrible concoction?" prosecutor Sandra Eastwood asked at trial.

"Absolutely not," Hannah Overton testified.

The prosecution also countered claims by the Overtons about Andrew's strange behavior. Witnesses, including Andrew's former foster mother Sharon Hamil, took the stand and told jurors the boy seemed perfectly healthy and never exhibited odd or excessive eating.

Hamil said the same in an interview with "20/20" after the trial: "He didn't ever seem like he was not being fulfilled with his meals. He seemed to be full when he would leave the table."

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