After a 17-month investigation, Howard County police charged a jailed 29-year-old Baltimore man yesterday with murdering 15-year-old Tara Allison Gladden of Columbia.
Curtis Aden Jamison, in prison for having sex with two other young girls, was transported yesterday morning from the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown to police headquarters in Ellicott City and formally charged with Miss Gladden's strangulation death.
After announcing the charges yesterday afternoon, police revealed that Jamison had been indicted for the crime in December -- a grand jury action that police and court officials kept secret for fear it would hamper the investigation.
Sgt. Steve Keller, a police spokesman, said police officers had no new evidence but were confident that information gathered in the months since the killing would make a strong case against Jamison.
Jamison, who police said had a sexual relationship with Miss Gladden, had been named by police as a suspect since a volunteer search dog team found her nude, decomposed body in a culvert under Little Patuxent Parkway at Vantage Point Road on Aug. 17, 1993.
Miss Gladden's parents, John and Johanna, and brother, Shawn, held a news conference yesterday in Columbia.
John Gladden said the family had feared the case was losing momentum.
"I'm elated," Mr. Gladden said. "It took longer than I expected, but I knew the day was coming. Still, there are a lot of things unanswered."
The family still wants to know exactly when Miss Gladden was killed so they can add the date to her tombstone. Because of the condition of her body when it was found, officials could only estimate that she died shortly after her July 22 disappearance.
She vanished six days after police interviewed her about her physical and emotionally abusive relationship with an older man, who police said was Jamison.
Early yesterday, George Tindal, a Baltimore lawyer representing Jamison, said he knew of no new charges against his client.
Later, he did not return calls to his office.
"Just let [Jamison] do his time and let him come home," Mr. Tindal said. "It's all over. Let's let sleeping dogs lie at this point."
Howard County State's Attorney Marna McLendon, who attended yesterday's news conference, said a grand jury indicted Jamison on the murder charges Dec. 15, but she decided to seal the indictment so as not to "compromise" the police investigation.
Police had gathered clothing, fiber samples, jewelry found at the scene and other unspecified evidence during their investigation. But no new evidence had been discovered in the past few months to bring about the indictment or the arrest, Ms. McLendon said.
Ms. McLendon and former State's Attorney William Hymes met with police and reviewed evidence in December and decided to press for an indictment.
Some evidence against Jamison had only recently become available, Mr. Hymes said, including laboratory analyses that weren't completed until October.
"We just tried to make certain we did a thorough job before presenting it to the grand jury," he said from his new home in Florida. "When you're relying on circumstantial and laboratory evidence, it takes longer."
Family members had criticized police for moving slowly on the case from the start.
When Miss Gladden was first reported missing, police thought she had run away.
During the first weeks after she vanished, police focused on Jamison's illegal sexual relationships with underage girls while they continued their investigation.
Jamison has been at the Hagerstown facility 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 Jamison had sex with one of the girls in the culvert where Miss Gladden's body was found.
Shawn Gladden said news of Jamison's arrest provided a little hope for the family.
"I lost my only sister and I can't get her back," he said. "The only thing I can get now is justice."
Jamison's trial may be in the spring, Ms. McLendon said.
The Gladden family is still offering a $20,000 reward for information about Miss Gladden's death, because the police investigation is continuing.
Anyone with information can call police at 313-2220.