Gladden death was homicide, state confirms 15-year-old's body was found in Aug.

November 10, 1993|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Staff Writer

Nearly three months after her partially decomposed body was found in a culvert under busy Little Patuxent Parkway, the state medical examiner's office confirmed yesterday that 15-year-old Tara Allison Gladden was murdered, probably by suffocation or strangulation.

A one-page press release confirmed the worst suspicions of family members who reported her missing from their home in the 5600 block of Vantage Pint Road on July 22.

"In consideration of the circumstances under which the body was found together with the autopsy and toxicological findings, the cause of death is probable asphyxiation (obstruction of airway) and the manner of death is homicide," the report stated.

The findings brought some comfort to Tara's family members, but police said the murder investigation is still continuing.

"I'm relieved we finally know," said Shawn Gladden, Tara's 19-year-old brother. "Now it's like a weight lifted off of our shoulders."

Tara's father, John Gladden; his wife, Johanna; and Shawn Gladden attended an informal news conference in front of their lawyer's office in Oakland Mills yesterday afternoon.

"We're still plugging away," said Sgt. Pete D'Antuono, head of the Howard County Police Department's Crimes Against Persons Unit. "We still have quite a way to go."

Sergeant D'Antuono said the determination of the cause of death is one of many parts of the crime that can aid the investigation. "It's been an obstacle up to this point so that's one removed," he said.

Sergeant D'Antuono said that evidence shows that Tara likely was killed around the time she was reported missing, 26 days before her body was discovered Aug. 17.

Detectives also are depending on forensic analyses and other information and materials acquired in the murder case. There apparently were no witnesses to the murder, he said.

The only suspect named by police is a former boyfriend of Tara's, 28-year-old Curtis Aden Jamison of the 3300 block of Oakfield Ave. in Baltimore. Mr. Jamison was questioned shortly after Tara was reported missing.

Mr. Jamison, who has been held at the Howard County Detention Center for the past 48 days, was charged with battery and a number of sexual offenses against Tara, a 12-year-old friend and a 13-year-old Baltimore City girl. He is being held on a $1.25 million bond.

According to court records, Mr. Jamison's relations with the underage girls spanned more than a year in which he took them to motels or met them at their homes or in a Columbia park. In one instance in May, Mr. Jamison is accused of entering the Gladden home without invitation and slapping Tara while showing off a handgun.

On Sept. 24, police served eight search and seizure warrants against Mr. Jamison, confiscating property -- including pornographic material -- and two cars from four homes he has frequented. Police also took the man's blood and hair samples after arresting him.

Attorney David Harvis, the Gladdens' friend and spokesman, waved off questions to Tara's parents about whether they think Mr. Jamison was responsible for Tara's death. Instead, he chose to indirectly answer the question.

"We believe the person responsible for Tara's death is currently in custody for other charges," Mr. Harvis said.

"It's been grueling for us for many weeks," said Tara's father. "Only one piece of the puzzle has been solved."

The Tara Gladden Fund, established to attract information about the girl's murder, has reached a bank total of $20,000. Anyone with information about the case should call Howard County police at 313-2266.

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