A 16-year-old girl testified yesterday that she knew for nearly a month that Tara Allison Gladden had been killed and that her body was in a culvert under Columbia's Little Patuxent Parkway -- but she didn't tell anyone.
The girl, 13 at the time of the 1993 slaying, testified that she kept the secret for fear of losing her relationship with Curtis Aden Jamison, a 30-year-old man on trial in Howard Circuit Court in the slaying of Miss Gladden.
For more than two hours on the witness stand, the girl recounted how Jamison enlisted her help in his plan to kill Miss Gladden, 15, and later made her play a guessing game about where the killing occurred.
About a week after Miss Gladden's death, the girl testified, she went to the culvert with her younger brother and his friend. While the boys played, the girl spotted one of Miss Gladden's shoes in the stream that trickles through the culvert.
"When I saw the shoe, I got scared," said the girl.
Her testimony came on the fourth day of the trial of Jamison, a Baltimore man serving a 20-year sentence for having sexual relations with the witness and a second underage girl.
Her testimony resumes today.
Jamison could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if he is convicted of first-degree murder.
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 death after a 17-month police investigation.
Miss Gladden's body was found in the culvert, about a half-mile from her Town Center home, on Aug. 17, 1993, after police and her family mounted a widespread search.
During yesterday's proceedings, the girl's testimony enthralled
the courtroom crowd, which included her mother, Jamison's parents and many relatives and friends of Miss Gladden.
At one point, Johanna Gladden, Miss Gladden's mother, was led from the courtroom in tears. But she returned later and, after the girl stepped down from the witness stand for the day, the two embraced. Both were in tears.
The girl, who now lives in Baltimore, testified that she met Jamison through a telephone conversation with friends in April 1992. She testified that Jamison told her he was 18. She was 12 at the time.
They talked by phone nearly every day, she testified. They did not meet until late one night in May 1992, when the girl sneaked out of her Columbia home. Soon after, they initiated a sexual relationship, she said.
The girl testified that at the time she was feeling sad and lonely because her parents were getting divorced. "[Jamison] was the only one who I could talk to," said the girl, fighting tears. "He made me feel special."
Jamison, whom the girl called "C.J.," regularly met her for sex at isolated places, such as a site behind the Columbia Inn that they called "the rock" and the Little Patuxent Parkway culvert where Miss Gladden's body was found, which they called "the tunnel," she said.
The girl testified that she and Miss Gladden had been friends, but that the friendship cooled when the girl began seeing Jamison. Later, the girl learned that he was also having a relationship with Miss Gladden, she testified.
By spring 1993, the girl said Mrs. Gladden started asking her questions about her relationship with Jamison. The girl denied -- that she was involved with the man.
The girl testified that in July 1993, after the Gladdens called police about their daughter's relationship with Jamison, she told detectives only that she and Jamison were friends.
Meanwhile, the girl said Jamison told her that Miss Gladden was lying to police to make her angry. "He told me [Miss Gladden] was not going to get away with this and that he was going to get rid of her," the girl testified.
On the morning of July 22, the girl said Jamison called her and instructed her to go to the Gladdens' townhouse to see if Miss Gladden was alone and to see if any police cruisers or other vehicles were parked at the house.
"He talked me into it," the girl said. "He said if I loved him, I would do it."
The girl said she went to the townhouse at least three times that morning and reported back to Jamison each time. The last time was about 10 a.m. As she waited to hear back from Jamison, she testified, she fell asleep. His call awakened her.
"What did he say?" asked Senior Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha. "It's done," said the girl, quoting Jamison.
The girl testified that Jamison then made her guess where the slaying occurred.
The girl testified that she first said "B" for bedroom, but Jamison said that wasn't it. She next asked "R" for the rock; again Jamison said no. She then guessed "T" for the tunnel.
"He said, 'Shhhh. Don't say anything,' " she said.