SAN ANTONIO – After a two-day search turned up nothing, sleepy Pompanic Street can go back to normal.
Jennifer Odom as she looked in 1993 shortly before she was abducted near her family home in Pasco County. PHOTO PROVIDED BY RENEE AND CLARK CONVERSE
Law enforcement vehicles and television news vans lined the street on Tuesday and Wednesday as investigators from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, Pasco Sheriff’s Office and FBI searched Lake Jovita for evidence related to Jennifer Odom’s murder more than 20 years ago.
In February 1993, 12-year-old Jennifer Odom stepped off of her school bus on Jim Denny Road in Pasco County. She never made it through the front door, and her body was discovered in a Powell Road orange grove about a week later. Her killer has never been identified.
Working off of a lead that suggested evidence could be recovered in Lake Jovita, law enforcement arrived at 12714 Pompanic St. on Tuesday morning to begin working, setting up staging areas on a boat dock. On Wednesday morning, law enforcement walked across the property with fresh air tanks for the dive teams. A helicopter circled overhead, and two small boats traveled between the dock and divers.
Hernando County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Denise Moloney said just before noon Wednesday that dive crews started searching the lake between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Tuesday, wrapping up for the day around 6:30 p.m.
Moloney said law enforcement started around 8 a.m. on Wednesday, and planned to search until they recover the evidence they’re looking for, or until they’re “relatively sure” the lake is free of evidence.
The investigation ended around 2 p.m., Moloney later confirmed in a press release. “After an exhaustive search, divers found nothing of evidentiary value,” Moloney said.
Moloney said the sheriff’s office hasn’t ever stopped investigating Odom’s murder. Back in February, Sheriff Al Nienhuis assigned cold case Detective John Ellis to work on the investigation full-time.
“A 12-year-old kidnapped on her way home from school, that doesn’t sit right,” Moloney said. “With cops, with parents, with the community, with anybody. I can’t think of anybody that would sit right with, and the sheriff is adamant about solving this case.”
Neighbor Gregory Smith, who allowed reporters to view the investigation from his backyard on Lake Jovita, said the though water levels were high, levels had been at “historic lows” at several points since Odom’s 1993 murder.
Moloney said dive teams were encountering plants and debris, but “nothing unusual for that type of lake.”
Rumors swirled that the team was looking for a blue pickup truck believed to have been used in Odom’s abduction. Moloney would not confirm what items the dive team was searching for.
The Pompanic Street residence belongs to Alfred Kiefer, according to public property records. Smith said the home has been recently rented out.
Moloney would not confirm if Kiefer had been questioned in Odom’s disappearance. Kiefer has moved out of the area to Anchorage, Alaska, according to Marry Epperson, who lives in the neighborhood and who has lived in San Antonio most of her life.
Epperson, whose children attended school with Odom, said the murder has “haunted” the community. Children stopped walking along, Epperson said, and parents felt their children were unsafe even in their own driveway.
“People would be more at ease knowing if this had been resolved,” Epperson said. It’s bothered everybody. Everybody I know who is local here has said, you know, I wonder what happened.”