Rubber strip said to match Oken shoe


A half-inch strip of white rubber found in the otherwise tidy apartment of Dawn Marie Garvin matches a similarly sized hole on a tennis shoe belonging to Garvin's accused killer, Steven H. Oken, an FBI expert has testified.

Special Agent William Heilman, an expert in torn-edge comparison, told a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury that, "The piece of rubber had at one time been part of the sole of the shoe."

The tiny strip of rubber is considered a key piece of evidence in the prosecution's case against Oken, 29, the White Marsh man accused of raping and killing Garvin on Nov. 2, 1987.

Garvin, 20, a newlywed from Harford County who was home alone that Sunday night in her White Marsh apartment, was found clutching a Teddy Bear. She had been shot twice in the head and sexually assaulted, testimony has shown.

Oken has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the case, which was to resume today. The state is seeking the death sentence for Oken.

Yesterday, Judge James Smith allowed the tiny rubber strip to be introduced into evidence, despite objections from Oken's attorney, Benjamin Lipsitz, who argued that the state failed to prove adequate chain of custody.

Lipsitz also vigorously questioned the expert, Heilman, as to how he had examined the piece of rubber and a left shoe belonging to Oken.

Besides examining the piece of rubber and the shoe side-by-side, Heilman said, he looked at both under a microscope. In addition, he made plastic casts of the hole on the shoe and compared those imprints with the strip of rubber, which had been found lying next to Garvin's television set.

Under cross examination, Lipsitz got Heilman to acknowledge that this had been Heilman's first time in comparing a piece of rubber and a hole in a shoe. Normally, the agent compares torn paper and plastic, he said.

Heilman also acknowledged to Lipsitz that the rubber strip does not exactly fit into the hole on the shoe. But, Heilman said, "That's not surprising, because no torn edges that I've ever seen perfectly match."

S. Ann Brobst, an assistant state's attorney prosecuting the case, said the state would conclude its case sometime today. Lipsitz told the court he had several witnesses to call for the defense.

Oken, who is also accused of raping and killing his sister-in-law, Patricia Hirt, 43, has already been convicted of murdering a Kittery, Maine, hotel clerk named Lori Ward.

Ward, 25, was found shot to death behind the motel counter where Oken was staying after he left Maryland in November 1987. Oken pleaded guilty to the murder of Ward.

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