Texas woman free on bond in salt poisoning case

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — A South Texas woman is free on bond while she awaits a new capital murder trial for the 2006 salt poisoning death of her 4-year-old foster son.

Hannah Overton, 37, of Corpus Christi, already had served more than seven years of a life prison term when she was released Tuesday on $50,000 bond. Prosecutors had sought $250,000 bail.

State District Judge Mario Ramirez Jr. also allowed her to have contact with her five other children. Prosecutors had requested restrictions on the contacts.

In September, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, citing poor legal help at her 2007 trial, overturned her conviction in the death of Andrew Burd. At her trial, prosecutors contended Overton fed the child a mixture of water and Cajun seasoning, causing sodium poisoning.

Evidence showed he had elevated sodium levels when he died at a Corpus Christi hospital. Physicians also found he had suffered a head injury that led to bleeding on his brain and swelling. A physician testified at her trial that the boy could have survived if he had been brought to the hospital sooner. The child's death was ruled a homicide.

Overton has maintained that the boy she and her husband were planning to adopt had emotional and medical problems, including an eating disorder that made him consume odd food items.

Defense attorneys called about a half dozen witnesses who testified to Overton's "gentle," ''patient," and "exemplary" character. Attorneys also provided a letter from the warden at a Gatesville prison where Overton has been locked up, describing her as "the epitome of a model prisoner." Every month, Overton's husband and other children visited her in prison, separated from her by glass and speaking with her on a telephone.

One prosecution witness at Tuesday's hearing, a child safety specialist with Child Protective Services, said child welfare officials previously were concerned about the Overton's disciplinary techniques that included using seasoning as a punishment.

A timetable for her new trial wasn't certain. A message left by The Associated Press with the Nueces County district attorney wasn't immediately returned Wednesday.

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