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Woman gets life sentence for burning dancer

March 4, 2010 12:27:05 AM PST
A woman who set an exotic dancer on fire outside a Tarzana bar has been sentenced to life in prison.Rianne Theriault-Odom, 28, was sentenced Thursday in Van Nuys Superior Court for the Feb. 5, 2009 attack on Roberta Santo-Busby. The victim attended the sentencing and tearfully asked the judge to issue the maximum sentence.

"Now you're going to feel the same heartache that I felt when I couldn't hug, kiss or play with my kids or even talk to my kids," Santo-Busby said as she wiped away tears. "You have indirectly caused many cracks in my personal relationships with my friends and my family. I guess I'll never know what was going through your mind that night, but one day you'll have to answer to God, and that's more justice than any prison can do to you. Your honor, all I ask is that you hand down a punishment that will keep her away from society for the rest of her natural-born life.

Theriault-Odom requested a psychiatrist and said she wasn't emotionally stable for the sentence. Superior Court Judge Susan Speer turned down a request to postpone the sentencing.

"The crime involved great violence, great bodily injury, disclosing an exceptionally high degree of cruelty, viciousness and callousness," said Speer.

Prosecutors say the two women had been arguing when Theriault-Odom doused Busby with gasoline from a soda bottle and set her ablaze at the Tarzana club. Authorities say the attack took place after the two women got into an argument outside the Babes & Beer bar, where Busby worked as a dancer, on Oxnard Street in Tarzana. Theriault-Odom doused the 28-year-old mother of two with gasoline from a soda bottle and set her on fire.

Theriault-Odom apparently had been refused a job as a dancer at the club.

Busby received burns over 40 percent of her body and has had more than two dozen skin grafts.

"Legally it's just about as much justice as we could hope for. That being said, when you leave the courtroom and the day is over, Roberta still has her scars," said Marcus Musante, Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.

Unique Demiranda says she's been Odom's friend for years and claims she is short tempered and suffers emotional problems after being in foster homes as a child.

"We always just knew that something was wrong, but never did we ever think that it would get to this point," said Demiranda.

"It's a tragedy for everyone. She's got a family, she's got four beautiful sons who she hasn't seen in over a year and may never see again," said defense attorney Leni Jacobs.

Theriault-Odom claimed someone else set the woman on fire. Last month, a jury convicted her of torture and aggravated mayhem but acquitted her of attempted murder.

The district attorney said he doesn't believe Theriault-Odom acted alone. They are still investigating a man who she was with that night to see if he can be charged with a crime.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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