White Marsh slaying trial starts Defendant Oken also charged with rape

When Dawn Marie Romano Garvin's father found her slain in her White Marsh apartment, she was lying nude on her bed, clutching a teddy bear.

Her killer apparently had raped her and sexually assaulted her again before shooting her twice in the head.


Garvin was killed Nov. 2, 1987. She was just 20 years old and four months into her marriage to her high school sweetheart, Keith Garvin.

Yesterday would have been her 24th birthday.


Instead, it was the first full day of trial for Steven H. Oken, the man accused of raping and killing Garvin.

If convicted by the Baltimore County Circuit Court jury, Oken faces a possible death sentence. Judge James Smith is presiding over the trial, which was to resume today.

Prosecutor Scott D. Shellenberger, in his opening statement yesterday to the jury of seven men and five women, said the gun used to kill Garvin was found in Oken's White Marsh townhouse and a piece of one of Oken's tennis shoes was found in the victim's apartment.

Benjamin Lipsitz, Oken's attorney, said the state failed to find any fingerprints linking Oken to the crime scene and he said an FBI analysis of vaginal swabs taken from the victim prove Oken could not have raped Garvin.

Dressed in a conservative blue suit and wearing wire-rim glasses, Oken sat quietly throughout the first day of trial, staring at a yellow legal pad on which he made notes.

He has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, but Smith has ruled the jury first must decide Oken's innocence or guilt, before deciding the insanity issue.

Oken already has been sentenced to life in prison in the November 1987 murder in Kittery, Maine, of a motel clerk who was shot in the head and sexually assaulted. Oken pleaded guilty to that murder.

In another case, Oken faces trial in the rape and shooting death of Patricia Hirt, 43, his sister-in-law, also killed in November 1987.


In his opening statement, Shellenberger said a .25-caliber automatic handgun that police found in Oken's home was tested by a ballistics expert, who found it was the same gun that fired the shells discovered near Garvin's body.

Moving to the defense table, Shellenberger loomed above the defendant, pointing his finger in Oken's face.

"Dawn Garvin was murdered with this man's gun, which police found in this man's house," Shellenberger said loudly.

Shellenberger said the state would present as evidence a chunk of rubber found in Garvin's apartment, which matches exactly a hole in one of Oken's tennis shoes, the shoes he was wearing when arrested in Maine.

Lipsitz said his client can't remember anything.

"Mr. Oken suffers from an amnesia of that time," the defense attorney said. "He won't be able to tell you anything of this time."


Among the first witnesses called yesterday was the victim's husband, brother and father, as well as a crime lab detective.

Keith Garvin, a Navy aircraft mechanic stationed in Virginia Beach, Va., at the time of the slaying, described how he became worried when he could not reach his wife by phone.

Frederick J. Romano, the victim's father, told of driving to the Lincoln Woods apartment complex to check on his daughter.

He found the door open.

"All the lights were on, the television was blaring very loudly," Romano said. "I began calling her name, but she didn't answer."

Dawn Garvin's barking dog led him to the bedroom, where he found her.


"It was shocking," he said in a hoarse voice. "It was absolutely shocking."