Slain woman's neighbors testify at Oken trial

January 15, 1991|By Deborah I. Greene | Deborah I. Greene,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

As police searched for murder suspect Steven H. Oken, they found in his White Marsh home a grisly shopping list that included gags, chloroform, surgical gloves and "dark pantyhose to cover hair and face."

Prosecutors at Oken's murder trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court offered yesterday that list and testimony from people who lived near Dawn Marie Garvin, 20, as evidence that Oken had plotted several sex-related slayings in November 1987, including the killing of Mrs. Garvin, a White Marsh newlywed.

Oken, 30, is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree sex offense in Mrs. Garvin's death on Nov. 1, 1987.

The list, in handwriting that experts identified as Oken's, also included a glass cutter, phallic objects, camera and film, adhesive tape and a rope. A piece of rope was found in the car Oken used to leave the county in the wake of the November 1987 slayings of Mrs. Garvin and Patricia A. Hirt of Baltimore. Oken to be tried later in Ms. Hirt's death.

Also in testimony yesterday, a White Marsh resident testified that Oken had been in Mrs. Garvin's building on the night of her death.

And other White Marsh residents said Oken had confronted them or tried to enter their homes using a variety of ruses just days before.

Mark Glidden, who lived in the same complex as Mrs. Garvin, testified that on Nov. 1 he allowed a man to use the telephone because the man said his wife had locked him out of the house.

"It seemed reasonable," Mr. Glidden said. Nonetheless, "I marked him in my mind as being a little unusual." He said the man talked a few moments and then left.

Mr. Glidden watched the stranger pause in the courtyard of the complex, walk briskly toward another building and then disappear up the stairwell that led to Dawn Garvin's third-floor apartment.

Gregory Gunnell testified that a few days later a man he identified as Oken knocked on his apartment door. Mr. Gunnell said he looked out of the peephole to see who was there and was startled to find "an eye looking back at me."

The man at the door wore a beeper and told Mr. Gunnell that he was a doctor and needed to use his telephone to return an urgent call to the hospital, Mr. Gunnell testified. Mr. Gunnell hesitated but finally allowed the man into his home.

Mr. Gunnell testified that the stranger appeared to order a prescription for a patient and then left.

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