Former Starbound dance studio owner charged with theft

COVINGTON — The former owner of a dance studio in Porterdale that suddenly shut its doors in May has been arrested and charged with theft by conversion.

Sgt. Cortney Morrison with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office said that Valerie Odom, 40, of 15 Willow Shoals Drive in Covington, turned herself in to authorities Wednesday morning and was charged with 13 counts of theft by conversion.

Odom was the previous owner of Starbound Performing Arts in Porterdale who, without warning, closed the dance studio just days before a recital had been scheduled.

Parents received an email from Odom on Wednesday, May 28, that stated the studio was closed “effective immediately.”

A handwritten sign was also posted on the door of the studio that simply stated, “Closed. Please review your email. -Mgmt.”

In the email, Odom assured parents that “all costume orders will be cancelled or returned once they arrive. Refunds for costume fees and any pre-sold (recital) tickets will be forthcoming, I am just not able to give you an exact date for that at this time.”

Parents also learned that a location for the recital had not been booked by the time the studio closed.

Odom told the Citizen at the time that she was financially unable to keep the studio open and that she had accepted a job out of state.

Parents’ initial concern was that their children be able to perform in a recital that they had been practicing for and looking forward to. With the assistance of a local business, an ad hoc recital was held the following Saturday as planned.

By the next week, when parents were unable to reach Odom, they began contacting the Newton County Sheriff’s Office.

Each of the parents claimed they had paid Odom, on average, about $200 for the costumes and fees. They explained that a recital was to be held at the end of May and that Odom had begun collecting fees for the recital and costumes in December and was continuing to accept money from parents as late as May 28 with no mention that she planned to close.

“Complainant stated that no fees regarding the recital have been returned to him nor has any attempt to refund his money been made by the owner of Starbound Dance Studio,” the incident report states. “Complainant stated phone calls and emails to the owner of Starbound Dance Studio have not been returned.”

Morrison said at the time that the Sheriff’s Office was getting “an influx of parents coming in.”

“They are all providing the same statements, and are seeking reimbursement for their costume fees and recital fees,” she said.

Morrison said that deputies attempted to serve Odom with the arrest warrant on Monday, but she was not home at the time. She turned herself in Wednesday and was released on an $11,200 bond.