Hospital slaying called diversion Teen reportedly told police crime let him escape with girlfriend

November 30, 1995|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Dan Thanh Dang contributed to this article.

Slaying suspect Benjamin Scott Garris told police he killed a Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital counselor to create a diversion allowing him to flee with teen-age girlfriend Jane DeCosta, participants in the case said yesterday.

"In all truth, I never wanted to hurt anyone," the Garris youth told police, according to a participant whose account was corroborated by others.

"I felt that's just what was needed to be done to be able to cause a diversion so Jane and I could leave safely. It was so wonderful to have something to believe in, to have something to look forward to, especially with my Jane by my side," the participant said the Garris youth told police.

During the Oct. 28 interview with police, young Garris, 16, discussed his troubled past and frustration with being placed in the mental hospital. He also described the stabbing death of Sharon Edwards, 26, the counselor, in grisly detail, saying she pleaded for her life, the participants said.

The Garris boy's lawyer, Howard L. Cardin, said last night he has yet to be furnished with any transcript of his client's statement to police. He said that parts of the statement being made public could be unfair to his client.

The Garris youth and the 15-year-old DeCosta girl are charged in the Oct. 8 slaying of the counselor in a cottage at Sheppard Pratt in Towson during her first night of work.

The Garris youth, who was a resident of the cottage, is alleged to have set fire to it before fleeing. Authorities say that shortly after the slaying he met up with the DeCosta girl, an acquaintance from a special school at the hospital.

Authorities launched a nationwide search for the teen-agers, both of whom have histories of psychiatric problems.

The Garris youth -- who within a day of the slaying was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree arson and two counts of attempted murder -- was arrested Oct. 27 in Virginia Beach after he is alleged to have tried to shoplift items from a convenience store. He was extradited to Maryland on Oct. 30.

A day later, the DeCosta girl was found and was reunited with her family. Although police did not name her as a suspect during the weeks she spent on the run with the Garris youth, she was indicted Monday as an adult on charges of conspiracy and accessory to first-degree murder before and after Jane DeCosta the fact.

She surrendered to authorities Tuesday and was ordered held without bond.

Yesterday, she appeared in a Towson courtroom but waived her right to a bail review hearing. She wore jail-issue clothing; of blue scrubs and orange sandals; the hair on her once-shorn head now stands a half-inch high.

As she entered the courtroom, she smiled slightly and nodded to her parents.

"That's tough," said her father, Richard DeCosta, recalling the moment. He said the family was devastated by her indictment.

Peggy DeCosta described her daughter's reaction to word that she was being charged: "I've never seen her so scared in her life."

The DeCosta girl's attorney, M. Cristina Gutierrez, said she would seek a hearing this week in Circuit Court to ask a judge to consider releasing the girl to a secure psychiatric facility to await trial.

Apparently, police investigators had turned their attention toward the DeCosta girl within days of her return from Virginia.

The girl, who, parents and lawyer said, was admitted to Sheppard Pratt after returning to Maryland, was arrested by police and questioned on Nov. 2. Cpl. Kevin B. Novak, a county police spokesman, said investigators released her without charges after consulting with prosecutors.

Mr. DeCosta said he talked with his daughter after that police interview, and she could not relay what she had told investigators.

The girl remained in in-patient psychiatric care from the time of her return until she surrendered Tuesday night, her parents said.

Police said yesterday that information contained in the Garris boy's writings and information developed after his arrest led to the charges against the girl.

Ms. Gutierrez said her client has an extensive history of psychiatric problems, including a history of "coming under the influence" of older boys.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.