Va. police find teen who fled with Garris 15-year-old girl reunited with family, returns to Maryland

November 01, 1995|By Jay Apperson and Dan Thanh Dang | Jay Apperson and Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Elaine Tassy contributed to this article.

Jane DeCosta, the Timonium teen who spent nearly three weeks on the run with accused killer Benjamin Scott Garris, was reunited with her family yesterday after being found in a Virginia Beach motel room.

"The initial happiness is fantastic," said her father, Richard DeCosta, who drove to the Virginia seashore town early yesterday to get his 15-year-old daughter. But the elation in her safe return was tempered by the realization that she now faces in-patient psychiatric care.

FTC "Down deep, you want to take her home," he said, after taking his daughter to a Towson hospital for a physical examination. "But you know she needs more than she can get at home."

About an hour before the DeCostas arrived at the hospital, the Garris youth, 16, was taken to a bail review hearing across town. A District Court judge ordered that he be held without bail on charges including first-degree murder.

Jane sported a shaved head when she arrived in Towson, and Mr. DeCosta said she explained the reasons behind that look during the ride from Virginia.

"One, she thought it looked cool, and the other, she thought it might disguise her. From a distance she might have looked like a boy," he said.

She slept for much of the ride home, and spoke little of the Garris youth, he said, adding that he did not press her on the subject, preferring to leave that to the police for now.

Mr. DeCosta spoke with reporters yesterday outside St. Joseph Medical Center. After Jane's examination, she was to be admitted for psychiatric treatment at the nearby Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital. It was at that hospital's school for troubled children that she met the Garris youth.

The girl told her father that she willingly ran off with the Garris youth after he allegedly stabbed his counselor at a Sheppard Pratt group home. She slipped out of her parent's house and met him within hours of the slaying. The two rode the light rail system to Baltimore and boarded a train to Newport News, Va., Mr. DeCosta said.

They made the last leg of the journey by bus, arriving at Virginia Beach's small bus station on U.S. Route 58. Mr. DeCosta said his daughter told him they survived by eating at shelters and at a pizza parlor, and sleeping under bridges and in the woods. But they had grown tired and talked of turning in themselves by the time the Garris boy was arrested Friday.

Young Garris returned to Baltimore County on Monday, after waiving extradition. He appeared in a Towson courtroom yesterday wearing an orange, jail-issued jumpsuit and orange open-toed rubber shoes, and was denied bail. He is charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Sharon Edwards, a 26-year-old counselor at Sheppard Pratt, and with arson and two counts of attempted murder.

The DeCosta girl's parents said she didn't seem to grasp the seriousness of her decision to go underground with a fugitive.

"I don't think she's too aware of how dangerous it is, what she's done," said her mother, Peggy DeCosta. Said Mr. DeCosta: "I think she's a little disconnected from the whole situation."

Mr. DeCosta spent Sunday and part of Monday cruising the streets of Virginia Beach, searching for his daughter. He also made a public appeal to her Baltimore-area friends, asking that they contact police if called by his daughter. That tactic may have helped -- police said Jane apparently called a friend who, in turn, alerted authorities.

Officer Michael Carey, a Virginia Beach police spokesman, said officers found her at 1 a.m. yesterday in Room 310 of the Virginian Motel -- a few blocks from the 7-Eleven store where young Garris was captured while allegedly shoplifting. The girl, who fled from the store parking lot as he was being captured, was with other teen-agers when police found her.

She did not resist being taken into custody, and she faces no criminal charges.

Mr. DeCosta had wondered how his daughter would react to seeing him. A chronic runaway, she sometimes had reacted angrily to being caught. But when he saw her around 8 a.m. yesterday, he received a warm reaction.

"I got my hug," he said.

For the drive back, Mr. DeCosta made seating arrangements with an eye toward his daughter's history as a runaway. He said, "We wanted her in the back of the Blazer where there are no doors, just so we didn't take a chance."

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