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Wannabe dancer found guilty of setting fire to woman in bikini bar feud

" Never in my mind would I think that she would be somebody who could do anything like this."
VAN NUYS - A Tarzana woman was found guilty Thursday of dousing an exotic dancer and single mother with gasoline and setting her on fire last year outside the Tarzana bikini bar Babes N' Beer.

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Rianne Theriault-Odom, 28, who had been rejected as a dancer at the club, faces mandatory life sentences for the guilty verdicts of one count each of aggravated mayhem and torture. The Los Angeles Superior Court jury acquitted her of a third count, attempted murder and the lesser charge of attempted voluntary manslaughter.

"I'm satisfied that the jury listened to all the evidence and obviously deliberated thoroughly and held the defendant accountable," said prosecutor Marcus Musante, with the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.

"All you can ask for is that justice be carried out."

Based on testimony and evidence during the trial, the prosecution might renew an investigation into a possible accomplice in the case, Musante said.

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The victim, Roberta Dos Santos Busby, sat in the Van Nuys courtroom with her mother and aunt, looking down and holding a tissue to her tear-stricken face as the verdict was read.

"I was angry at first that they didn't convict her of all the counts," Busby, 28, said after the verdict. "But I'm happy they convicted on the other (counts), and that she will be punished for what she did.

"She will be spending the rest of her life in prison."

Busby, a single mother of two from Simi Valley, spent five months in the hospital and underwent 30 operations after the Feb. 5, 2009, attack. The burn and skin-graft scars were still strikingly visible on her legs and face as she sat in the courtroom.

The defendant listened to the verdict in silence, at times biting her lips.

Minutes before the jury entered the courtroom to read the verdict, Theriault-Odom's public defender, Leni Jacobs, approached Busby and her mother and aunt to console them. She told Busby she had been courageous throughout the ordeal.

"You're incredible," Jacobs told Busby.

"I just want it over," Busby replied.

Jacobs, who was holding back her own tears and took tissues to Busby's mother, later said:

"The jurors were very good. They deliberated for quite a long time and, you know, we respect their verdict."

Musante also indicated that prosecutors may now go back and reassess whether to charge Nathaniel Marquis Petrillo, 23, of Reseda.

Authorities originally sought Petrillo along with Theriault-Odom in the attack, and they were arrested together. But prosecutors decided at that time they did not have enough evidence to charge Petrillo.

Petrillo, however, figured prominently during testimony and in surveillance video documenting the attack.

"The jury (said it) looked at him and thought he was involved," Musante said after the verdict. "And we're going to take another look at him."

The jury of five men and seven women deliberated over three days, at times asking that testimony be read back to or video be played for them.

On Thursday morning they requested to see a portion of the surveillance video taken outside the club, but by the time the footage was delivered to the jury room, they canceled the request, announcing they had reached a verdict.

Superior Court Judge Susan M. Speer set sentencing for March 4.

During the trial, witnesses said that Theriault-Odom, who had been rejected for a job at Babes N' Beer, had feuded with Busby and felt disrespected by her.

Theriault-Odom testified that "I felt offended - I felt she was trying to punk me. I had to stand up for myself. That's the way it is on the streets."

She also testified to being "very drunk" on the evening before the 1:45 a.m. attack, saying she had consumed two double shots of Russian vodka, half a fifth of Patron tequila and five shots of Hennessey cognac.

She denied, however, setting the dancer on fire. Instead, she testified that while she scuffled with Busby outside the club, she was not the one who doused her with gasoline and set her on fire.

But witnesses identified Theriault-Odom as the assailant, saying they saw her douse Busby with gasoline from a bottle, pull out a lighter and try three times before setting her on fire.

Surveillance video was shown of Busby running into the bar on fire - "like a human torch," Musante said - as frantic club workers tried several times to put out the flames.

The defendant's mother was not in the courtroom Thursday, but said in an interview Wednesday that she did not believe her daughter committed the attack.

"There isn't any doubt in my mind that my daughter didn't do this, knowing how she was raised," said Elizabeth Odom of Van Nuys.

"I think she was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. She's a sweet girl. Never in my mind would I think that she would be somebody who could do anything like this."

Added: Feb-12-2010 
By: Songun
Tags: VAN NUYS, crime, hate crime
Location: Van Nuys, California, United States (load item map)
Views: 9004 | Comments: 16 | Votes: 0 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 1 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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