Detectives Investigate Kidnapping Case After 20 Years

Authorities don’t know what they have at the bottom of the lake. They tried on Tuesday to keep their investigation hushed and expectations in check. But word bubbled up about a possible break in this case that haunts the Tampa Bay region: the murder of Jennifer Odom.

FBI officials and local authorities converged on a picturesque street Tuesday, chasing a lead in the 20-year-old unsolved murder of the 12-year-old girl. It led them into the waters of Lake Jovita, where dive teams spent the day in boats and under tarps. It ended with no major announcements except that investigators are searching for a vehicle.

A Hernando County Sheriff’s Office forensics unit van and a black truck were parked in the driveway at 12714 Pompanic St., a two-story home with a manicured lawn and a private tennis court. More than a dozen marked and unmarked patrol cars lined the street where a pack of reporters and satellite trucks camped out in the sun.

Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis cautioned that the lead was just one of hundreds received in the notorious case. Investigators, however, rented hotel rooms close by Tuesday night to return to the scene today.

“We have been working several different angles on this case since I assigned a detective full-time to this investigation,” Nienhuis said in a news release. “We are, of course, hopeful that this is the break in this case that we have been waiting for.”

That Friday 20 years ago, Jennifer should have bounded off her school bus near St. Joseph, a rural community west of Dade City, and walked to the family’s mobile home on Jim Denney Road.

Because her bus arrived first, Jennifer usually beat her younger sister, Jessica, home.

But Jessica arrived home, and Jennifer never did.

Some students reported seeing an old, light-blue pickup near Jennifer’s bus stop that day, but no one saw the abduction


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