Woman held on bail in Walmart bleach attack
Prosecutors have 'grave concerns' for victims
Firefighters at the Lansdowne Walmart Saturday after a woman allegedly attacked another woman with bleach and Pine-Sol (WJZ / October 8, 2011)
A Baltimore County judge on Tuesday ordered Theresa Monique Jefferson, 33, of Lansdowne held on $350,000 bond on charges that she attacked another woman with bleach at a Lansdowne Walmart on Saturday. The fumes from chemicals caused 19 people to be taken to area hospitals, police said.
Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney John P. Cox argued that Jefferson is a danger to her former boyfriend, Calvin Pannell, and his current fiance, Ebony Odoms, whom she's accused of attacking.
"We have grave concerns for the safety of the two victims if she should be let out on the streets," Cox said.
However, Jefferson's attorney and Pannell's parents said Jefferson was simply defending herself after months of harassment from the couple. Jefferson is the mother of Pannell's 6-year-old son, they said.
Wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit, Jefferson appeared in Towson's District Court via closed circuit television from the Baltimore County Detention Center. She didn't talk during the short hearing, except to confirm that she had been advised of her rights.
The court commissioner stated that Jefferson works at the CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield in Owings Mills and is currently a student at the Community College of Baltimore County. She has one prior conviction, for driving without a license, according to the commissioner.
According to charging documents, Pannell and Odoms, who are engaged, were getting an oil change at the Walmart and decided to shop in the store, when they saw Jefferson. The couple told police that they had already been granted a restraining order against Jefferson, but she had not yet been served with it.
"They explained that the defendant is very jealous that Mr. Pannell has moved on and is marrying Ms. Odoms," charging documents state. Odoms told officers that Jefferson has threatened her in the past, and she believes Jefferson is responsible for pouring acid on her car, though police say there is no official record of that incident.
According to the couple's account, once Jefferson spotted the pair, she began walking toward them and yelling obscenities. She then struck Odoms in the face and the two began to fight. After knocking Odoms to the ground, Jefferson grabbed a bottle of bleach and dumped the bottle on Odoms.
The police report notes that at least 40 percent of Odoms' gray Calvin Klein sweat suit had turned light orange from the bleach.
A store manager, Abraham Joe Kannamkunnel, attempted to break up the fight, according to police. He said he watched Jefferson open a bottle of Pine-Sol and throw it on Odoms.
A customer who called 911 described the altercation as "two ladies flipping out on each other," according to a recording of the call released Tuesday by the county.
"There's a fight in the middle of Walmart," the caller said. "They're using chemicals to throw at each other."
Police said they did not have updates on the conditions of people taken to hospitals or whether they were released from treatment, but officials noted that only Odoms had been hit by the bleach.
In court Tuesday, Jefferson's attorney, Warren Brown, said his client was not to blame for the fight, claiming that it was she who was attacked by Pannell and Odoms.
"She defended herself with what she could," Brown said.
Pannell's father, Fred Culp, who attended Tuesday's bail review to support Jefferson, said his son and Odoms have been harassing Jefferson for months.
"He's my son, but when he's wrong, he's wrong," he said outside the courtroom. "He's been messing with that girl. … She's a real nice girl. She doesn't deserve to be treated like this."
Brown told the judge that Pannell was convicted of assaulting Jefferson in August. Court records show he is appealing that case.
"Their son and that woman have been harassing Ms. Jefferson," Brown told the judge. "She's not looking for trouble."
Jefferson told police that after Pannell and Odoms spotted her at the Walmart, Pannell grabbed her arms and held them behind her, while Odoms sprayed mace in her face, she told officers, according to charging documents.
"Jefferson advised that she grabbed the cleaning ... bottles because she had no other ways of defending herself," according to the account contained in the charging documents. Police said they did not find any mace in Odoms' purse.
Officers attempted to review the store's surveillance tapes, but the cameras were focused on an unrelated shoplifting incident.
Jefferson drove to the District Court in Catonsville after the incident in an attempt to get restraining orders against the couple. Police arrested her there.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4.