Friends, family describe a girl who 'liked to laugh' Kin say Tara Gladden was led astray HOWARD COUNTY

August 20, 1993|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Staff Writer

Shawn Gladden won't forget his little sister, Tara. She had looked to him all her life for protection, security and a little brotherly love.

Until the state medical examiner's office identified the body found in a culvert under Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia Tuesday morning as Tara's, 19-year-old Shawn had hoped against hope.

"Even when they discovered the body, I had a brotherly feeling it wasn't her," he said. "When I found out it was, it almost killed me."

The big brother was one of several family members and friends who gathered in the Gladden home yesterday afternoon seeking to preserve the memory of a timid girl they said had been led astray.

"She was a very shy girl who was afraid of her own shadow," said John Gladden, Tara's father. "She believed what people told her; she trusted people a lot."

Tara would have turned 16 Monday. Hoping for her safe and sudden return, the family had prepared a spaghetti dinner and a strawberry shortcake -- her favorite foods. But Tara, who had been missing for 25 days, did not return.

In the past two weeks, media attention has focused on Tara's yearlong relationship with Curtis Aden Jamison, a 28-year-old Baltimore man who turned himself in on two warrants Aug. 3, one for a fourth-degree sexual offense and assault for his involvement with Tara and the other for the second-degree rape of a girl who was 12.

Family members said that even though Tara had been involved with Mr. Jamison, she had been deceived. C.J., as Mr. Jamison was known, told Tara he was 19 when they first met during a phone conversation, according to court records.

Mr. Jamison had been questioned about Tara's disappearance when he was charged with the sex offenses. Police have not identified Mr. Jamison, who is free on $20,000 bond, as a suspect in the death of the teen-ager.

Tara's parents believe she was murdered, but Howard County police are awaiting final autopsy results from the state medical examiner and so far have ruled her death "suspicious."

The girl's body was identified by dental records Wednesday. Police also have determined that a set of keys and a pair of earrings found in the woods near her body belonged to Tara.

The family warned other parents yesterday that their children, too, are vulnerable to the kind of tragedy that took the life of their daughter.

"If you feel something is not right, go with that feeling," said Johanna Gladden, Tara's mother.

"We were strict parents, but that wasn't enough," Mrs. Gladden said. "These things happen to good families, too. You have to be aware of everything."

Mrs. Gladden said she last spoke with Tara about 10:30 a.m. July 22. When she returned home from work that day, she grew worried when she found Tara missing and the basement door open.

"I knew something was wrong," she said.

In the past year, Tara had seemed to become withdrawn, family members said. Her behavior was disturbing, they said, because her shyness had always led her to bond with those at home.

She was especially fond of her big brother, Shawn, who would take her to Lake Kittamaqundi to see the ducks or to a favorite horror movie or comedy.

"She liked to laugh," recalled Shawn, who will be a sophomore at the University of Maryland at College Park this fall.

When the two attended Wilde Lake High School, Shawn said, Tara would rely on him for support and protection.

"I felt close to her," he said. "I miss her a lot."

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