John and Johanna Gladden testified yesterday that they kept a watchful eye on their 15-year-old daughter in a desperate effort keep her away from the man with whom she had a sexual relationship. But on the one day they left her alone, she vanished.
The Columbia couple testified for the prosecution in the Howard Circuit Court trial of Curtis Aden Jamison, the 30-year-old Baltimore man charged in the 1993 slaying of the Gladden's daughter, Tara Allison Gladden.
Prosecutors contend that Jamison killed Miss Gladden so he could beat criminal charges filed against him over their sexual relationship. Those charges were dropped after the girl's death, but he was indicted in her slaying after a 17-month police investigation.
Jamison, serving a 20-year sentence for having sexual relations with two other underage girls, could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if he is convicted of first-degree murder. His trial resumes today.
The Gladdens testified that they sent their daughter to California to visit relatives for several weeks after learning of her relationship with Jamison and that they initiated a police investigation of Jamison upon their daughter's return.
The couple testified that they had relatives spend days and nights with their daughter for nearly a week, took cords off all but one telephone to limit her calls, and changed the pass-code to their home-security system so she could not leave their townhouse without setting off an alarm.
But by July 22, 1993, Miss Gladden was tiring of the supervision, her mother testified, so the girl was allowed to spend the morning home alone.
Mrs. Gladden testified that she spoke with her daughter from work at about 10:30 a.m. She said her daughter needed allergy medicine, so Mrs. Gladden planned to get some and take it to her at lunch time.
"It was the last time I ever heard from her," Mrs. Gladden testified, fighting back tears.
When Mrs. Gladden got to the family's Town Center home, her daughter was gone.
On July 25, three days after Miss Gladden's disappearance, Mr. Gladden decided to confront Jamison, he testified. Taking his brother, a friend and a police officer, Mr. Gladden said he went to Jamison's Oakfield Avenue home in Baltimore.
"I said [to Jamison], 'I'm Tara Gladden's father, and I want to know where she is,' " Mr. Gladden testified. "He said, 'I don't know where Tara is.' "
Mr. Gladden said the police officer searched Jamison's home with his permission, but Miss Gladden was not in the house.
For the next few weeks, the Gladdens agonized over what could have happened to their daughter. They testified that they went to the media for help, posted hundreds of fliers between Baltimore and Washington, and checked with all of Miss Gladden's friends. Their search turned up nothing.
Their worst fears were realized Aug. 17, 1993, when a Rockville-based search team found Miss Gladden's body in a culvert under Little Patuxent Parkway, about a half-mile from the Gladdens' townhouse.
In other testimony yesterday, William Falk, a neighbor of the Gladdens, testified that he and his wife were walking their dog when they saw Miss Gladden and Jamison together on a path that leads to the culvert.
This contradicts Jamison's statement to police investigators that was unfamiliar with the paths near Miss Gladden's home. He also had told police that he met Miss Gladden only two times, both occasions at The Mall in Columbia.
Mr. Falk could not be certain of the day he saw the couple, testifying that it was the morning of either July 21 or July 22. Delores Gladden, Miss Gladden's grandmother, later testified that she had spent July 21 with the girl and that the two had spent the day inside.
Mr. Falk testified that he had seen Miss Gladden and Jamison together on the path at least three times before. But this time he could tell there was trouble between them.
"As we walked by, Tara Gladden said, 'I have to go home now or else I'm going to get in trouble,' " Mr. Falk said. "She was trying to back away toward where her house was."
Mr. Falk said Jamison raised his voice at Miss Gladden, telling her that he wanted her to stay with him.
The Falks were concerned about the argument and decided to cut their walk short, he testified. When they turned around and walked back by the site where Miss Gladden and Jamison had been, they were gone, Mr. Falk said.