Official calls for juvenile trial in slaying case

March 27, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

A state juvenile justice official yesterday recommended that Jane DeCosta, the Timonium teen charged with being an accessory to murder in the slaying of a Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital counselor, be tried as a juvenile.

At a hearing to determine whether her case will be heard in the adult court system -- where she could be sentenced to a life term in prison -- Juvenile Justice Department counselor John Kern outlined the 15-year-old girl's history of mental illness, and the lack of any long-term treatment. He then said she should be treated for at least three years at the Cheltenham Youth Center in Prince George's County if found delinquent by the court.

He dismissed concerns about the seriousness of the charges and suggestions by prosecutor S. Ann Brobst that the girl is indifferent toward the crime.

"The feeling was there was no way to determine if that was just a case of bravado," Mr. Kern said, referring to the girl's statement to police.

In her statement, the girl said she supplied slaying suspect Benjamin Scott Garris with a hunting knife before the Oct. 8 slaying of Sharon Edwards, and added: "I was aware someone was going to die, but for some reason, I don't know, I didn't care."

The girl also allegedly supplied the Garris youth with a soda bottle of gasoline, according to testimony by Leon A. Rosenberg, a child psychologist from Johns Hopkins Hospital who interviewed the girl.

The Garris youth, 16, is charged as an adult with first-degree murder and with attempting to kill two other patients by burning their cottage at Sheppard Pratt.

The focus yesterday on the DeCosta girl's Nov. 2 statement to police foreshadowed a fight over its admissibility at trial. The hearing recessed when her lawyer, M. Cristina Gutierrez, asked a Crownsville Hospital Center psychiatrist whether the girl was mentally competent to talk to police.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Barbara Kerr Howe, who will rule on the motion, said the hearing would resume today.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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