Teen faces adult trial in slaying Girl, 15, is charged in stabbing of counselor

March 29, 1996|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

Jane Frances DeCosta must stand trial as an adult on charges related to the stabbing death of a Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital counselor in October, a Baltimore County judge ruled yesterday.

That means the 15-year-old faces a possible life sentence. If she had been tried as a juvenile, which her attorney sought during a 2 1/2 -day hearing that ended yesterday, she could have been held in the juvenile system only until age 21.

She is suspected of providing a hunting knife and a soda can of gasoline to Benjamin Scott Garris, 16, who is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing of counselor Sharon Edwards.

Miss DeCosta is charged with five counts: being an accessory before and after the fact of first-degree murder, conspiracy to arson and murder, and as an accessory before the fact of arson.

The factors the judge weighed in determining whether the case should go to juvenile court included her age, her physical and mental appearance, the possible threat she posed to public safety and her amenability to mental treatment, which is more often available in juvenile centers than in adult institutions.

"I cannot find by a preponderance of the evidence that she has met the burden of proof and the motion she has made to be remanded to juvenile court is denied," Circuit Judge Barbara Kerr Howe said.

Attorney M. Cristina Gutierrez had asked that the court try the Timonium girl as a juvenile, saying she did not function as an adult and was mentally impaired when she made a statement to the police indicating her role in the slaying.

Assistant State's Attorney S. Ann Brobst, who will try the case, conceded yesterday that Miss DeCosta is mentally ill but argued that her illness did not mean she should be tried as a juvenile. "There has been no testimony that the mental illness had any causal impact to the crime," Ms. Brobst said.

The prosecutor also said the teen-ager had not been responsive to mental treatment in the past and did not display any concern about the death of Ms. Edwards.

The trial is expected to begin Tuesday after a hearing to determine whether Miss DeCosta's statement to police may be admitted as evidence.

Pub Date: 3/29/96

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