Oken describes his crimes

January 23, 1991|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Evening Sun Staff

Two days after a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury convicted Steven H. Oken of murdering Dawn Marie Garvin, Oken's professed amnesia of the event evaporated, as he described in chilling detail the sexual assault and murder to two of his psychiatrists, testimony showed.

The psychiatrists, who met with Oken on Sunday at the county Detention Center, testified yesterday that Oken is not criminally responsible for the Nov. 2, 1987, killing because he suffers from "sexual sadism disorder," a rare affliction in which the person is obsessed with kidnapping, raping and humiliating women.

One said the admission by Oken merely reinforced his existing opinion, while the other psychiatrist said he altered his diagnosis because of the confession.

But a Maine psychologist called by the state testified that Oken suffered from no such illness and therefore is sane and criminally responsible for his actions.

The hearing on Oken's insanity plea was continuing today before Judge James T. Smith Jr.

The body of Garvin, 20, was discovered by her father in her White Marsh apartment. She was nude on the bed and had been shot twice in the head and sexually assaulted.

The first psychiatrist to testify yesterday said Oken had had sadistic fantasies for at least six years.

"Mr. Oken acted on his sadistic urges" the night Garvin was killed, Dr. John R. Lion testified.

"He admitted to subjugating Dawn Garvin, making her beg for her life, cry, be terrified. He became sexually aroused by the act. . . . He forced sex upon her."

The story Oken told his psychiatrists confirms the state theory that he gained entry to Garvin's apartment by asking to use the phone.

Oken also described the sexual assault and murder to Dr. Henry Payson, a Vermont psychiatrist who earlier had diagnosed Oken as suffering from "paradoxical rage reaction," a condition where someone reacts violently to alcohol or other drugs that normally relax people.

Payson said he now believes Oken suffers from the sexual sadism disorder, but said Oken also suffers from his earlier diagnosis, too.

But Dr. Neil Maclean, a psychologist who examined Oken shortly after his arrest in Maine on Nov. 17, 1987, said, "There is little or no support [for the sexual sadism disorder] other than his say-so."

The fact that Oken earlier that night had left another woman alone after she confronted him proves he could have stopped the attack on Garvin. And the fact that he tried to cover up his acts shows he knew what he did was wrong, said Maclean.

If found criminally responsible, Oken faces a possible death sentence. He is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole in Maine for the killing of Lori Ward, 25, a motel clerk in Kittery.

And later this year, Oken faces a trial in Baltimore County for the murder of his sister-in-law, Patricia Hirt, 43.

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