richard odom
richard odom

Richard Odom was sentenced to death by the State of Tennessee for the sexual assault and murder of an elderly woman. According to court documents Richard Odom who was on the run from a murder conviction in Mississippi would grab the elderly woman while she was getting out of her car, the victim would be sexually assaulted and murdered. Richard Odom would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.

Tennessee Death Row Inmate List

Richard Odom 2021 Information

Birth Date:07/13/1961
TDOC ID:00215639
State ID Number (SID): 

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On May 10, 1991, Mina Ethel Johnson’s body was found on the back seat floorboard of her car in a parking garage in Memphis, Tennessee. The victim’s lower body had been left exposed, and she was bleeding from her anus and vagina.   There were multiple stab wounds in the victim’s back and two bloody hand prints on her hips.

Sergeant Ronnie McWilliams of the Memphis Police Department testified that fingerprints found in the victim’s car led to Odom’s arrest on May 13, 1991.   A search revealed that Odom was in possession of a “large knife,” which he kept under his shirt.   Odom initially told officers that his name was “Otis Smith” and that he had been imprisoned in Mississippi for a murder that occurred in 1978.   Richard Odom confessed that he intended to steal the victim’s purse and forced her into the back seat of her vehicle.   When the victim said, “What are you doing, son,” Odom replied, “I’ll give you your damn son.”   Odom admitted that he raped the victim and that the victim told him that she “never had sex with a man before.”   Richard Odom admitted that the knife officers found in his possession was the knife he used to stab the victim.   He did not recall how many times he stabbed the victim.   Odom said that he found no money in the victim’s wallet or purse, and that he left the victim in her car and fled.   McWilliams testified that the defendant was “open” and “kind of bragging a little bit about the situation.”

Dr. Jerry Francisco, who performed an autopsy on the victim, testified that the victim bled to death from a stab wound to the right ventricle of her heart.   The victim also had stab wounds to her liver and right lung and two defensive wounds to her right hand.   The victim suffered tears to the posterior part of her vagina, which were caused by a traumatic event such as attempted penetration, and sperm was found in her vagina.   Dr. Francisco testified that the injuries were inflicted while the victim was alive, that the wounds would not have caused instant death, and that the wounds would have caused immediate pain.

John Sullivan, a family friend, testified that Mina Ethel Johnson was a “shy, genteel” woman who had never married or had children and who was capable of managing her own affairs.   Louise Long, the victim’s sister, testified that the victim was retired from her job as secretary at an insurance company and was active in her church.   She testified that the victim had broken her foot and was going to the doctor when she was killed.   Long also stated that she missed the victim because she no longer had “any family at all to go to.”

In addition to the evidence regarding this offense, the prosecution presented evidence regarding the facts of the defendant’s two prior violent felony convictions to support the aggravating circumstance it relied upon to seek the death penalty.   See Tenn.Code Ann. § 39-13-204(i)(2) (prior convictions for felony offenses whose statutory elements involved violence to a person).   The prior felony convictions included a 1992 robbery conviction in Shelby County, Tennessee, and a 1998 first degree murder conviction based on events that occurred in 1978 in Rankin County, Mississippi, when the defendant was seventeen years old.

With regard to the 1992 robbery conviction, the prosecution presented the testimony of the victim, Lillian Hammond.   Hammond testified that on May 8, 1991, she was approached by the defendant outside of her office at Shelby State Community College in Memphis, Tennessee.   The defendant demanded Hammond’s purse and threatened to kill or harm Hammond if she made any noise.   Hammond testified that the defendant made vulgar sexual comments and said, “I want you.”   The defendant grabbed Hammond’s arm and caused her to fall to the ground.   He took Hammond’s purse and ran away.

With regard to the 1998 first degree murder conviction, the prosecution presented evidence that the defendant killed the victim, Mary Rebecca Roberts, on May 4, 1978.3  Terri Roberts, the victim’s daughter, testified that her parents owned a drive-in theater in Pearl, Mississippi, and lived in a trailer next to the theater.

A police officer, Ernest Simmons, testified that he was called to the Roberts’ trailer and discovered the body of Mary Rebecca Roberts slumped in a recliner.   The victim was covered in blood and had gunshot wounds to her face.   The recliner apparently had been moved some nine feet from the wall and placed directly in front of the door.   Two knives and bullet casings were found in the trailer.   A bloody hand towel and a “stainless steel Army mess-kit knife” also were found in the trailer;  the knife blade was bent at “a 90 degree angle.”   There were bloodstains in the trailer and at the drive-in where a safe was kept.   Simmons testified that the murder weapon was a .22 caliber bolt action rifle that required reloading between shots.

According to Simmons, the police later questioned the defendant, then seventeen, who told officers that he went to the trailer because he was owed money.   When Roberts tried to hit him with a flower pot, the defendant hit her and chased her to a bedroom.   The defendant then stabbed the victim with a knife and forced her to leave her trailer and open a safe at the drive-in from which he took $255 and two guns.   The defendant told police officers that he and the victim returned to the trailer and that he “sat her down” in a recliner.   When Roberts pleaded for her life, the defendant told her, “Shut up.   I’m trying to think.”   The defendant claimed that the victim was shot when she grabbed the barrel of the gun he was holding.   The defendant admitted, however, that he shot the victim a second time because he “was scared” and “wanted to make sure she was dead.”   The defendant also admitted that he threw one of the guns into a swamp and hid the other gun and some of the money.   Simmons testified that the defendant “showed no remorse” and had been “extraordinarily calm” when he gave his statement to police.

Dr. George Sturgis, who performed the autopsy, testified that Roberts had a fatal gunshot wound to her left eye, a fatal gunshot wound to the right side of her forehead, and a critical stab wound in her chest that had penetrated her left lung.   The gunshot to the victim’s forehead had been fired from close range.   Dr. Sturgis also testified that the victim suffered lacerations and puncture wounds to her neck and chest, as well as bruises to her neck that suggested strangulation.

An assistant attorney general testified that the defendant had shown no remorse during the trial in 1998, and that the defendant exhibited an attitude as if it “was somewhat of a game.”   The prosecutor also testified that she saw no indication that the defendant was suffering from any mental illness.

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