Curtis Aden Jamison's testimony helped convince a Howard County judge yesterday that -- despite his denials -- he murdered 15-year-old Tara Allison Gladden of Columbia.
Judge James Dudley found Jamison guilty of first-degree murder after a half-hour of deliberation. Jamison, already serving a 20-year prison term for having sex with two underage girls, could be sentenced to life in prison without parole at his Nov. 21 sentencing.
The judge said Jamison's testimony Monday "extinguished" any reasonable doubts defense attorneys had built up against the prosecution's case during his trial in Howard Circuit Court.
"His testimony clearly established that he is a manipulative, pathological liar," Judge Dudley said while delivering the verdict. "None of his testimony is credible."
Miss Gladden's body was found in a culvert under Columbia's Little Patuxent Parkway Aug. 17, 1993 nearly a month after she disappeared from her Town Center home.
Prosecutors argued during the trial that Jamison killed Miss Gladden to 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.
The 30-year-old Baltimore man's seven-day trial was highlighted by testimony from a 16-year-old Baltimore girl who said Jamison told her he planned to "get rid of" Miss Gladden for pressing charges against him.
The girl testified that she knew for nearly a month that Miss Gladden had been killed and that her body was in the culvert. She said she didn't tell anyone out of fear of losing her relationship with Jamison. She was 13 at the time.
Jamison is serving a 20-year prison term for having sexual relations with the girl and another underage girl.
Judge Dudley presided over a court trial requested by defense attorneys, who were concerned that O. J. Simpson's recent acquittal on murder charges would bias jurors against Jamison, a black man accused of killing a white girl.
As Judge Dudley announced his verdict, Jamison showed little emotion. But members of Miss Gladden's family -- wearing pins with the girl's picture -- wept and clutched each other.
"Justice was served," Miss Gladden's father, John Gladden, said outside the Ellicott City courthouse. "It's been 28 months of hell."
"I knew from the beginning Curtis Jamison killed Tara," said her mother, Johanna Gladden. "This haul was for convincing everybody else."
Jamison's family rushed from the courtroom after the verdict was announced, leaving without saying goodbye to Jamison and refusing to comment outside the courthouse.
In his closing statement, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Michael Rexroad asserted that Jamison killed Miss Gladden after he failed to persuade her to follow the Baltimore girl's example and drop the criminal charges against him.
"His arrogance was that he thought he could talk Tara out of it," Mr. Rexroad said. "He's a master of manipulation with these children."
Mr. Rexroad ripped apart Jamison's testimony, saying it was "the most unmoving, unconvincing denial of a murder that perhaps this court has ever seen."
The prosecutor went on to point to many inconsistencies between Jamison's testimony and his statements to police investigators.
He noted how Jamison first said he hardly knew Miss Gladden, but later told detectives that he was like her "big brother." When he testified, Jamison acknowledged that he had a sexual relationship with Miss Gladden.
Jamison testified that he and Miss Gladden had sexual encounters at her home -- contradicting his statements to police that he had never been to Miss Gladden's house.
Mr. Rexroad noted how one detective said Jamison was "adamant" that he had been repairing his car the day Miss Gladden disappeared, but on the stand, Jamison testified that he "might have been" fixing the vehicle that day.
The prosecutor advised Judge Dudley to listen to recorded telephone conversations between Jamison and the Baltimore girl to find why Jamison would have killed Miss Gladden.
"I don't want to go to jail," Jamison said to the girl, according to Mr. Rexroad.
But defense attorney Edward Smith Jr. told Judge Dudley to note in the tapes how Jamison repeatedly tried to get information from the girl. He asserted that police used Jamison and the girl to get information any way they could to advance their investigation into Miss Gladden's death.
Mr. Smith also urged Judge Dudley to weigh the girl's testimony as that of an accomplice, noting how she was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for cooperating with investigators.
The Baltimore attorney said discrepancies in Jamison's testimony should be disregarded, since the autopsy on Miss Gladden's body included no scientific evidence to prove she was murdered because the body was so decomposed.
"They still don't have a time of death," Mr. Smith said. "There was nothing to show that there was a homicide."
However, Mr. Rexroad noted how prosecutors have won murder convictions in the past -- even when the body of the victim was never found.
"Should Curtis Jamison be rewarded for stuffing a body in a tunnel where it became so decomposed and destroyed all of the evidence?" Mr. Rexroad said. "No, he should not."