Woman is slain answering door for baby sitter Police think killing was a case of mistaken identity

March 11, 1991|By Richard Irwin and Joe Nawrozki | Richard Irwin and Joe Nawrozki,Evening Sun Staff

A 22-year-old Curtis Bay woman was shot to death last night by a gunman who apparently mistook her for her friend, with whom he had been feuding for six years, police said.

Minutes after the shooting, police arrested a convicted murderer and charged him with the slaying, police said.

Police said Tambra Dove, a beautician who lived in the 1500 block of Cypress St. in Curtis Bay, apparently was an innocent victim who ran afoul of a feud between the suspect and the woman who cared for Dove's child.

According to homicide Detective Marvin Sydnor, Dove answered knock on the door of 1133 Wicomico St. about 7:45 p.m. and was confronted by a man who immediately opened fire with a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle.

While Dove lay dead or dying in the doorway of bullet wounds to the head and body, the man stood over her and fired more bullets into her, Sydnor said.

The man then ran a few doors to his residence, dropping the rifle in the street, the detective said.

Several minutes later, police went to a rowhouse at 1127 Wicomico St. and arrested John H. Garbutt, 51, without incident.

Sydnor said that the rifle was recovered near Garbutt's residence and that Southern District officers found 16 spent shell casings inside and outside 1133 Wicomico St.

According to Sydnor, the shooting culminated an ongoing quarrel between Garbutt and a 29-year-old woman, who lives at 1133 Wicomico St., that began about six years ago when the woman allegedly spread rumors and accusations about Garbutt to his wife.

Sydnor declined to name the woman.

Sydnor said that Garbutt may have fired several shots into the front door, then immediately knocked on the door. "He fired into the door around the lock, just like in the movies," said Sydnor, who could not explain why the victim would have gone to the door after someone had fired shots into it.

The detective said it appeared Garbutt was intent on ending the feud.

Sydnor said that as Dove answered the door, the woman the gunman was seeking grabbed Dove's 5-year-old child and apparently hid inside the house.

Sydnor said police believe Garbutt shot Dove, thinking she was the woman he was looking for.

According to Sydnor, several other people were in the house at the time of the incident and gave statements to police that after shooting Dove, Garbutt stood over her body and shot her several more times.

The detective said that after the arrest, Garbutt was taken to 1133 Wicomico St., where he was identified by witnesses as the man who shot Dove.

Dove's child and the woman who was caring for the toddler were not harmed, Sydnor said.

Garbutt, a heavy-equipment operator, was being held without bail at the Southern District police station.

According to Evening Sun files, Garbutt was convicted in 1962 of the May 1961 murder of Earl Baker, the owner of a Ridgeville, Carroll County, general store, during an armed robbery.

He was sentenced to life in prison and escaped in 1976 from the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup.

Garbutt was recaptured in October 1978 in Fayetteville, N.C., while using the name of a soldier stationed there at Fort Bragg.

Garbutt was returned to Maryland and given an unspecified sentence for escape that ran concurrent with the life term. He was paroled from the Maryland prison system in 1984.

Because he had no infractions during his parole period, he was seen only once or twice a year by his parole officer, according to Susan Kaskie, a Division of Correction spokeswoman.

"He was considered infraction-free," Kaskie said.

Garbutt had been scheduled to visit his parole officer today, according to Kaskie. He was last seen by a parole officer in a face-to-face interview last October, she said, and had last talked telephone with his parole officer in December.

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