'Had God Fallen Asleep?' HOWARD COUNTY

August 19, 1993

We could hunt for weeks for words to describe the depravity, brutality and callousness of a string of unrelated attacks in Howard County, and never come close to expressing the void, the ache and the fear as did the victims' loved ones recently:

* "I often wonder if God had fallen asleep allowing this to happen or was it God's wish to take a loving, gentle soul away from this world, a mother from her child, a wife from her husband, a sister, a daughter and a friend so violently, so painfully." -- Biswanath "Steve" Basu's written statement introduced for the sentencing of the man who carjacked and murdered his wife, Pam Basu, last fall.

* "After a beep leave a message. If this is Tara, leave a message and let us know if you're O.K. We love you very much, and we want you to come home." -- the answering machine message at the Columbia home of Tara Allison Gladden. The teen-ager's body was found, last Tuesday, after she'd been missing nearly a month.

* "Everybody is at risk. This is only an animal. Next time, they could violate an individual." -- comment of Helen Tuel, who runs a Lisbon riding center that provides therapy for people with physical, mental and emotional problems, after a mare there was sexually mutilated with a knife last weekend.

Because of its affluence, its highly planned city, its country backroads, Howard County has a reputation for being insulated from crime. Not so. In a 1991 report, the FBI recorded nearly 9,000 crimes in Howard; it has about 4 percent of the people in the state, about 3 percent of the crime.

Many Howard countians are alarmed by the local crimes and court testimony of the past month. Residents should not feel that all security is lost, though: The Basu killing was the product of a botched car theft. The death of Tara Gladden is heart-wrenching, but the adolescent, despite the best efforts of her parents, apparently was unable to set herself free from bad associations. And police are investigating the equine torture at the Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center, which may or may not be the random atrocity it appears.

Howard County is not an unsafe, unpredictable place. The fact that this week one might need reassurance of that is almost as sad a statement as the words from those closest to the victims.

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