Family's worst fears are realized Remains are those of missing girl, 15

August 19, 1993|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Staff Writer

The state medical examiner's office identified yesterday the body found in a culvert under Little Patuxent Parkway Tuesday as a 15-year-old Columbia girl who had been missing for almost a month.

Tara Allison Gladden's partially decomposed body was identified by her dental records. Tara had been missing since July 22, when her mother returned to the family's home and found an open basement door.

The medical examiner's office is expected to release the cause of Tara's death this morning. Medical officials also should be able to say how long the body had been in the culvert.

Outside of the Gladdens' town home on Vantage Point Road yesterday, attorney and family friend David Harbis represented the family in a brief interview.

"Pure horror," Mr. Harbis said. "That's what they've been through."

"[Tara's] memory won't fade with the wind," Mr. Harbis read in a statement prepared with the family. "Let it stand for the fact that a lot of violence and deprivation faces young people these days."

Tara's death has been ruled "suspicious" by Howard County police, who are still investigating. Police spokesman Sgt. Gary Gardner said police will interview friends and neighbors for a second time.

Sergeant Gardner said detectives may bring Tara's former boyfriend, Curtis Aden Jamison, 28, of the 3300 block of Oakfield Ave. in Baltimore, back in for questioning.

"Weighing all the circumstances, at some point in time, we may ask to reinterview him," Sergeant Gardner said.

Mr. Jamison turned himself in on two warrants Aug. 3 -- one for a fourth-degree sexual offense and assault on Tara. The other charges included the second-degree rape of a 12-year-old girl, who lives in the same block as Tara.

At the time he turned himself in, Mr. Jamison said that he had no idea where Tara could be found, police said.

Baltimore City police arrested Mr. Jamison in April for his involvement with an underage city girl. But that case was put on the inactive docket, provided that he stay out of trouble.

The identification of Tara's body was a shock to the Gladden home, whose family members and friends had prayed and hoped for a better ending to what Mr. Harbis called "the greatest tragedy in their life."

Friends and neighbors said yesterday Tara was a quiet and shy girl, who was very self-conscious. Her passiveness and naivete may have eventually gotten her into trouble, they said.

"She was really nice and a polite little girl," said Anne Wallace, whose 16-year-old daughter, Krissan, was good friends with Tara.

"We'd do crazy and fun things together," added Krissan. "She was really shy, not like the street image shown [of her] on TV."

Krissan said she and Tara often went to the Mall in Columbia to take wacky pictures in the photo booths. Other times they would paint wild collages or just sit and talk.

Ms. Wallace said Tara was so shy she would often cast down her eyes when spoken to.

Staff members at Wilde Lake High School, where Tara attended ninth-grade, remembered a self-conscious student who needed some self-esteem.

"She was a sweetheart and very likable, but she was emotionally needy," said her ninth-grade guidance counselor Judy Jenkins.

"When a child in that age group feels insecure she is much more vulnerable to people who want to take advantage of her," Ms. Jenkins said. "She's someone who you felt needed protection and who you'd want to protect."

Johanna Gladden, Tara's mother, moved her daughter from Wilde Lake to nearby Atholton High School after her freshman year because she felt her daughter began dealing with a bad crowd.

Tara, who would have turned 16 on Monday, was to have started her junior year at Atholton in the fall.

Mr. Harbis urged anyone with information about Tara's disappearance or death to contact Howard County Detective Frank Lilly at 313-2220.

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