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Garris returned to Baltimore Co. Teen slaying suspect is held without bail


Benjamin Scott Garris, who fled to the Virginia seashore during a 19-day run from the law, was returned to Baltimore County yesterday and ordered held with out bail in the fatal stabbing of his mental hean 8 a.m. extradition hearing in Virginia Beach and ended with an evening bail hearing in Towson District Court, when he was ordered held without bail at the county detention center.

The youth will appear at a bail review today in District Court at 1 p.m.

Despite the media crush that chronicled his return, he would not comment on the Oct. 8 slaying, or events leading to his capture Friday. His only comment came when asked about his traveling companion, 15-year-old Jane DeCosta of Timonium, who is still missing.

"She's fine," he said outside the Towson police precinct, after being fingerprinted and having his photo taken.

The Frederick youth is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Sharon Edwards, a counselor at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, where he was a patient. He also allegedly set fire to the cottage's porch while two patients remained in the cottage, leading to charges of arson and two counts of attempted murder.

Ann Brobst, an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore County, said her office likely will ask a grand jury for an indictment in the case within the next two to four weeks.

Meanwhile, Baltimore defense attorney Howard Cardin said, "I have been contacted to represent but I have not yet been able to meet with him to see whether or not I will be able to."

The Garris youth, who was captured while allegedly shoplifting at a Virginia Beach 7-Eleven store, cleared the way for his return during a brief appearance yesterday at that city's Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

The T-shirt and baggy shorts he was wearing when arrested had been replaced by a white dress shirt buttoned to the collar and black slacks.

"Benjamin Garris, is it your desire to voluntarily go back to Maryland and stand trial?" asked Judge Ronald H. Marks.

"Yes, sir," the teen-ager replied in a soft but steady voice.

Present for the hearing were the boy's mother and stepfather.

As young Garris entered the courtroom and took a seat at the trial table, his mother, Tina Marie Lee, gently touched his back.

The teen-ager turned and acknowledged the gesture with a smile.

Leaving the courtroom five minutes later, the Garris youth wore a slightly pained expression.

As she left the courthouse, Mrs. Lee said, "We're going to stand by his side. He's our son."

Mrs. Lee and her husband, John Lee, said they first heard of the arrest Friday in a telephone call from her ex-husband. They said they visited the teen-ager Sunday at the Tidewater Detention Home, where the boy reported he had been treated well.

Asked how her son appeared during the visit, she said, "Thinner and tired." Mr. Lee said his stepson expressed some relief that his days as a fugitive had ended. Mrs. Lee said he had talked to them of his time on the run, but she would not elaborate.

The Decosta girl's father, Richard DeCosta, drove home from Virginia Beach yesterday, ending his day-and-a-half search for his daughter.

He spent much of Sunday and part of yesterday anxiously cruising the streets of Virginia Beach in a Chevrolet Blazer. He showed snapshots of his daughter -- who has not been charged in the slaying -- to store clerks and teen-agers, and asked anyone who saw her to call police. He said he found three people who were certain they had spotted the girl.

He said he would return to work and hope that his efforts would pay off with his daughter's safe return. But he also braced himself for the likelihood that any reunion might be a rocky one.

"She's not going to want to do any hugging or any of that stuff," he said, noting that she had run away before. "You would love to have a Hollywood finish like that, but we're not really expecting it. It hasn't happened in the past."

Just hours after the Garris youth waived extradition, he was flown into Martin State Airport on a Maryland State Police plane. He kept his head low as he was led by Baltimore County police to an unmarked blue sedan.

Later, he was taken to the Towson precinct, and then driven to District Court to appear before Commissioner Joel Snyder, who denied him bail. He was quiet and reserved in the brief hearing, Mr. Snyder said.

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