Killing of girl remains a mystery a year later

August 14, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

It's almost a year since 15-year-old Tara Gladden's body was found in a culvert under Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia Aug. 17. It has been a year of frustration for county police who have been unable to find enough evidence to close the case, a year of anguish for her family who are unable to forget.

Police have named Curtis Aden Jamison, 29, with whom Tara had had a sexual relationship, as a suspect in the killing.

Jamison has been in the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown since Sept. 24, serving a 20-year sentence for having sex with a 12-year-old Columbia girl last year and a 13-year-old Baltimore girl in 1992.

During their investigation, police learned that the Baltimore man had sex with one of the girls in the culvert where Tara's body

was found.

"Solving the [Gladden] case will alleviate a lot of people's overall anxiety," said Sgt. Pete D'Antuono, head of the Crimes Against Persons Unit.

Sergeant D'Antuono said he is awaiting an FBI analysis of hair and fiber samples, results that were due in July but were $H delayed and are now expected by the end of this month.

"My feeling is optimistic, and I'm hopeful we'll be able to charge," he said. "Hopefully there will be some justice brought to the case, some finality so the family can go on."

That's been difficult for Tara's father, John Gladden, who says the unanswered questions surrounding his daughter's death still fill his mind.

"It's been a year, but it doesn't seem like a year. It seems like yesterday," Mr. Gladden said. "It's like a recurring nightmare you can never wake up from. Memories come up -- like trips to zoos -- and it's like she's standing there whispering in your ear, 'Remember this.'

"It's a tough situation to go on day by day."

Mr. Gladden said he's hopeful that investigators will soon resolve the case, but he said he continues to believe that the police did not take his daughter's disappearance seriously enough, at least not immediately.

"They said she was a runaway -- all other circumstances said otherwise," he said.

Tara's parents' called police after learning that Tara was having a sexual relationship with a man known as "C.J."

Tara interviewed

Officers interviewed Tara on July 16, 1993, and learned Jamison's identity from her.

Police say the girl told them of an emotionally and physically abusive relationship with Jamison that had led her to attempt suicide.

Tara was reported missing from her home in the 5600 block of Vantage Point Road on July 22, 1993, when her mother returned home and found a basement door open and Tara gone.

A week later, police issued warrants for Jamison, charging him with sex offenses involving Tara and a 12-year-old Columbia girl. He turned himself in Aug. 3.

Police found Tara's nude body near a wooded area three minutes from her home on Aug. 17. She could only be identified by dental records.

"The biggest obstacle to the case was between the time she was missing and when she was discovered," Sergeant D'Antuono said. "It's tough to make a case when it's not fresh -- when the body is dumped and just left somewhere."

Police say that Jamison had sex numerous times during a yearlong relationship with Tara, but charges arising from those incidents were dropped because her testimony was needed to prosecute.

Jamison is due to appear in court next month on charges that he broke into the Gladden home and assaulted Tara and a friend in May 1993.

Waiting for police

"I don't want to say anything about the case," said Jamison's Baltimore attorney George Tindal.

The Howard County state's attorney's office, which does not have its own investigators, has to wait for police to turn up information, said State's Attorney William R. Hymes.

"Until we're given more hard evidence that lets us know we can issue a conviction, there isn't anything that we can do from our office," said Mr. Hymes.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gladden said he and his wife, Johanna, moved this spring to another part of Columbia and have bought a dog, a cockapoo they named Tag, the initials of their daughter's full name.

"She didn't deserve to die the way she did. Tara got involved with something she didn't know anything about, something way over her head," Mr. Gladden said.

Tara would have turned 17 on Tuesday.

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