Murderer pleads guilty to killing sister-in-law Oken, slayer of 3, receives 2nd life sentence.

April 24, 1991|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Evening Sun Staff

Stephen Howard Oken, the former pharmacy clerk who sexually assaulted and murdered three women, has pleaded guilty to killing his sister-in-law.

Under questioning from Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge James T. Smith Jr. yesterday, Oken, 29, said he was entering the plea voluntarily and that he had not been pressured into it.

Oken, who in January was sentenced to die in Maryland's gas chamber for the Nov. 2, 1987, murder of a White Marsh newlywed, Dawn Marie Garvin, was dressed casually in faded blue jeans, tennis shoes and a gray sweater, with the sleeves rolled up. He sat passively as a county prosecutor read an "agreed upon" statement of facts.

Afterward, Smith asked Oken if he had anything to say for himself.

"No," he replied.

Smith then gave Oken another life sentence in prison, to run concurrently with a life sentence he received in January for the sexual assault of Garvin.

According to the statement of facts read into the court record by prosecutor S. Anne Brobst, Patricia A. Hirt, 43, the older sister of Oken's ex-wife, Phyllis Hirt, had gone to Oken's townhouse on Stillwood Circle in White Marsh about 3 p.m. Nov. 15, 1987.

Hirt had gone there to return a camera she had borrowed, according to the statement. But when she arrived, there was a note on the door in Oken's handwriting, which read: "Pat, come in. I'm in the shower."

Brobst said Hirt entered the townhouse and was attacked by the defendant. Oken stripped her, raped her, beat her, strangled her and then shot her in the head at close range with a .380-caliber automatic handgun, Brobst said.

Later, according to the statement of facts, Oken put Hirt's nude body into the trunk of a 1979 Mustang belonging to her father. Oken dumped the corpse into a drainage ditch off White Marsh Boulevard.

Oken, who was arrested Nov. 17, 1987, in Kittery, Maine, later pleaded guilty to killing a motel clerk there named Lori E. Ward, 25. He was sentenced to life in prison for that killing.

At the time of Oken's arrest in Maine, police recovered the 1979 Mustang and found the murder weapon inside the trunk. "The victim's [Hirt's] blood was on the gun as well as in the Mustang," Brobst read from the statement of facts.

In January, Oken was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering Garvin, a 20-year-old business school student whose body was found in her White Marsh apartment.

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