Accused youth's father urges surrender Teen-ager charged in slaying at Towson hospital


FREDERICK -- The father of Benjamin Scott Garris, the teen-age patient charged in Sunday's slaying of a counselor at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, called on his fugitive son yesterday to surrender to police.

"It's critical that that happen for his safety," Robert Stephen Garris said, adding that he feared his son would be hurt in a confrontation with police. "He is, I'm sure, very afraid."

Mr. Garris, a salesman who has been divorced from Benjamin's mother since 1991, said he has had no contact with his son since Sharon Edwards' slaying. The Garris youth, who was living in Fordham Cottage, a group home on the grounds of the Towson mental hospital, disappeared after the slaying and has been charged with first-degree murder.

Police were still searching for him yesterday.

Benjamin, 16, entered Sheppard Pratt in March after his girlfriend broke up with him, Mr. Garris said. "He suffered from depression and many of the circumstances that revolve around that were hard for all of us to deal with," he said in an interview from his white Cape Cod on the western edge of Frederick. The youth's mother, Tina Marie Lee, has had legal custody of him since the divorce, according to court records.

Asked whether his son had a history of criminal behavior, Mr. Garris said, "He'd had his scrapes here and there, but nothing violent." He would not elaborate.

Meanwhile, at the home of Benjamin's mother, a man who answered the door said she would not comment. He added, "She's just hoping [Benjamin] is found and he is safe. This is kind of a shock and we're just trying to get her through it. We just want Ben's safe return and to clear this all up."

The Garris youth has been charged as an adult in the stabbing of Ms. Edwards, 26, a counselor working her first night shift at Fordham Cottage.

"We just feel terrible for the victim's family," Mr. Garris said. "It's just overwhelming, the sorrow, I feel for Sharon Edwards' family and for Ben."

County police continued their search for the Garris youth and Jane DeCosta, a 15-year-old Timonium girl believed to be traveling with him. Police were not sure whether the girl -- who has not been charged with a crime -- went freely or was forced to join the Garris youth.

The Garris youth was described as 5 feet 6, medium build, 150 pounds, with short orange-dyed hair shaved on the sides. Police said it is possible that the boy has dyed his hair a different color, or shaved his head.

The girl is described as having short, spiked black hair, a nose ring and three rings in her ears. She also has a tattoo of an A in a circle on her lower right leg.

Police are asking anyone with information to call 887-2198.

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