Young love, young death

Suicide: Authorities want to know more about the role of her boyfriend in the death of a 15-year-old Anne Arundel girl.

January 21, 2000|By Jay Apperson and Andrea F. Siegel | Jay Apperson and Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

They were 15 and in love, kissing in the hallways of Arundel High School. They seemed determined to be together forever.

But on an October evening, one of them died.

A gunshot echoed in the dark, dank storm drains in Crofton known to local teens as the Underworld. It was Jennifer Garvey, and as she lay there dying from a bullet wound to the head, her boyfriend ran to a nearby friend's home to deliver the news: She had shot herself.

But there was more to the story -- including a message in Jennifer's handwriting suggesting a suicide pact.

The note was found in a composition book near her body. The cover read: "Our last words! (suicide note)."

Inside was this message: "To our family and friends. If you found this [the boyfriend] and I are by now a memory. You've kept us apart and hurt us with your insensitivity. Now we can be together."

Now, more than three months after Jennifer died but her boyfriend didn't, authorities are investigating his role in her death.

Although satisfied with the medical examiner's ruling that the girl killed herself, authorities are looking into the possibility of bringing charges under Maryland's new assisted suicide law, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

If charged, the boyfriend apparently would be the first since the law took effect Oct. 1.

And that could be a novel application of a law prompted by actions far different -- those of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the assisted-suicide advocate in Michigan.

Prosecutors will review the results of gun residue tests on the boyfriend's hands -- which could show whether he fired or handled a weapon -- among other reports and tests, before deciding whether to bring charges, said Gerald K. Anders, a deputy state's attorney for Anne Arundel County.

Because the boyfriend is a juvenile, police are not identifying him and The Sun is not publishing his name. The boy could not be reached, and his mother declined to comment for this article.

Jennifer's father, Steven C. Garvey, blames the boyfriend.

"I think it was an unhealthy relationship," he said last night, adding that the boyfriend seemed to be driving away her friends.

"I really think he had kind of a power over her. He could make her change from what she was."

But Jen, as she was known to family and friends, also had problems -- a history of depression, according to the autopsy report, and effects of her parents' divorce, according to court records.

Jennifer had been treated for depression and mood swings for about a year and was taking medication for these problems until the time of her death, her father said.

In May, while he was in the house, Jen tried to slash her wrists but the blunt pocketknife barely broke the skin, her father said. Her doctor put her on a second medication.

Under court orders, she lived alternately with her father and mother, Cheryl Sylce, who had separated in 1995 -- when Jennifer was 11 -- and were divorced a year later. Her younger brother lived with her father.

Jen was slender, with long dark hair, and was very pretty. She was involved in drama classes, and a play called the "Nifty Fifties," in the ninth and 10th grades at Glen Burnie High School while living in the area with her mother. She had a dream of a Hollywood future.

Under the latest court order, she was living with her father -- owner of the Pasadena Floors retail business -- in a middle-class Crofton housing development.

Immediate problem

According to the father's account, Jen and her boyfriend met a few weeks before the school year's end in May, and immediately there was a problem. He said she would disobey him to do things for the boyfriend.

In a three-day period in May, Garvey said, he found the boyfriend, who lived a few blocks away, hiding in her bathroom at night, and then she skipped school, and she was suspended for playing hooky.

He says the behavior change was sudden -- that he never before had "a problem with her being disobedient."

Garvey said he gave the police more than 70 letters from the boyfriend to Jen. He showed some to a reporter that depicted the boy as disturbed and the relationship as troubled.

Jennifer considered herself a member of a pagan religion called Wiccan, he said, and wore its pentacle symbol on a necklace.

His name on her hand

The teen-agers' relationship was seen less critically by a girl in Jennifer's geometry class, Sarah Thaxter -- as a happy couple, holding hands, hugging and kissing between classes. Jennifer seemed perky, though sometimes daydreaming, she said.

"They never seemed like they were upset with each other," said Sarah, a 14-year-old freshman. She said Jennifer had scrawled her boyfriend's name on her backpack and, often, on her hand.

Sarah remembers the boyfriend for his hair, sometimes dyed bright red or blue, and for his "Nirvana" regalia -- a T-shirt and patches on a book bag.

The boyfriend was a fan of the rock group, whose leader, Kurt Cobain, shot himself to death in 1994.

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.