Dissatisfied with her life and her investments, Nancy Cantrell consulted an Annapolis psychic in 1992.
But instead of being "put in touch with her soul," Mrs. Cantrell told an Anne Arundel Circuit judge yesterday, she was persuaded to hand over $236,000 to an investment counselor who turned out to be a con artist and stole every penny.
The Severna Park woman told Judge Eugene M. Lerner, who could decide the case today, that she came to trust Kathy Oddenino, the psychic or "channeler," she consulted March 3, 1992, after a referral from a New Age bookstore in Severna Park and two telephone interviews.
Mrs. Cantrell said she paid $100 for a "channeling session" at Mrs. Oddenino's home, then was told about the benefits of investing her inheritance with Iris K. Rounsaville of Chesapeake Beach.
Rounsaville promised a 40 percent return on her investment and Mrs. Cantrell wired her $236,000, according to testimony and court papers.
But, according to testimony, what neither Mrs. Oddenino nor Mrs. Cantrell knew was that Rounsaville soon would be investigated by state and federal authorities for bilking 90 victims in a dozen states.
She pleaded guilty Sept. 7, 1993,in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to wire fraud and mail fraud for taking an estimated $4.7 million from investors. She was sentenced to five years in federal prison.
Mrs. Cantrell, who filed suit last year, alleges that Mrs. Oddenino's negligence as a psychic should make her liable for the financial losses.
The suit, which also names Rounsaville as a defendant, seeks $236,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages from both women.
"Oddenino recognized the fact that Cantrell was helpless in the control of her own financial affairs and was aware that Cantrell's personality was that of a victim," the suit says.
Mrs. Oddenino testified yesterday that as a channeler, she reads the energy emanating from a person's soul and tries to put the person in touch with that energy so they can move their lives in a positive direction.
"All the time we are living in our physical lives, we are actually using our soul's energy," said Mrs. Oddenino, a registered nurse who has written six books on the subject.
She is not really a psychic, she said, and does not like the word "channeler," but acknowledged to Mrs. Cantrell's lawyer, Marc Seldin Rosen, it may best describe her role in channeling the mind.
"We all began as spirit consciousness and that's what I turn [the mind] into, the spirit mind," she said.
She said she never recommended Rounsaville to Mrs. Cantrell and that Mrs. Cantrell signed a release in which she agreed that she would not consider what she was told in the channeling session as authoritative financial or legal advice.
Mrs. Oddenino also said that she lost $160,000 herself when Rounsaville backed out of an agreement with her corporation, Elan Vital, to finance a $1.6 million Holistic Retreat Center in St. Mary's County. The corporation has gone into bankruptcy, she said.