CORPUS CHRISTI, TX — A Texas prosecutor has revealed that he intends to declare a mother innocent in the death of her four-year-old foster son a decade after she was convicted of his murder and sent to prison for life.
Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez said he plans to dismiss Hannah Overton’s case and to include language that declares her innocent in the death of Andrew Burd, the child she and her husband Larry were adopting.
Andrew had been born to a methamphetamine addict and was put into foster care at age two after suffering abuse and neglect.
In 2006, he came to live with Hannah, Larry, and their four children. Despite his behavioral problems, which reportedly included intense temper tantrums and an obsessive appetite, friends and family stated that Andrew appeared to be a happy little boy.
On October 2, 2006, Andrew was alone with Hannah when he started vomiting. By the following day, he was dead. The cause of death was determined to be salt poisoning — and investigators accused Hannah of force-feeding Andrew enough salt to kill him.
In 2007, Overton was convicted of capital murder “by omission,” or by failure to act after jurors found that she had not taken Andrew to the hospital in a timely enough manner.
The prosecutors painted a picture of Overton as an abusive mom who tortured Andrew, and forced him to ingest a high-sodium mixture of spicy seasoning and water.
She spent seven years behind bars before being released in 2014, and her story was the subject of Until Proven Innocent, a documentary on Investigation Discovery.
Defense lawyers argued Andrew’s death was accidental, the result of a rare medical condition, possibly pica, which, they claimed, could have caused him to accidentally poison himself by ingesting a fatal amount of sodium. Witnesses came forward to verify that they had noticed Andrew’s strange behavior, including eating from the trash.
Hannah was prosecuted using an unusual law that states that if you do not go to the hospital within an hour and a half, you can be charged with capital murder.
The declaration of her innocence represents a crucial final step in a long legal battle for the family. After seven years in prison, the state’s highest criminal court overturned Hannah’s conviction in 2014, saying her trial lawyers were ineffective, and sent her case back to Nueces County.
In 2015, then-District Attorney Mark Skurka dropped the case against her, but refused to declare her innocent.
Hannah’s husband Larry Overton pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in exchange for a type of probation that allowed him to avoid a conviction and prison. He has said he took the deal to avoid the risk of being imprisoned and leaving their five children without a parent.
The Overtons now live in east Texas, where they house released prisoners to help them transition back into society as part of their prison ministry.
Main photo: Hannah Overton [ABC News (screenshot)]