Steven Oken: 3 Homicides & Execution

Steven Oken committed three homicides throughout Maine and Maryland. This is the story of how he got caught, convicted, and executed.
Steven Oken with his family

Steven Howard Oken was born on January 22, 1962. Oken was executed on June 17, 2004. Oken was an American serial killer who was on the Maryland death row for many decades.


Dawn Marie Garvin, a 20-year-old was located by her dad on the bed in her apartment, naked, with a bottle coming out from her vagina along with blood streaming down her forehead on November 1, 1987. Keith, Garvin’s husband for less than a year was just coming home from his base in Virginia.

Garvin’s farther and even the paramedics tried to administer CPR, but she was dead on the scene. When an autopsy was done, the autopsy revealed that she ultimately died from two contact gunshot wounds, one that entered her left eyebrow and the other gunshot wound that went through her right ear.

To Garvin’s apartment, there is no signs of forced entry. However, Garvin’s clothes were found lying on the living room floor, but her bra was still hooked, but it was ripped on the side. While her pants were inside out. The crime scene investigators found two spent .25 caliber shell casings on the bed where she was found.

Shortly after the murder, the murder weapon, which was a handgun was in Oken’s house. While the rubber sole of Oken’s tennis shoes was found in the living room of Garvin’s apartment.

There were a few witnesses during the trial that could easily identify Oken as the person in their neighborhood and who also attempted to get in their residences a few days before the murder happened.

Two weeks after Dawn Garvin was murdered, Oken sexually assaulted and killed Patricia Hirt, his sister-in-law in his Maryland residence.

Oken then fled for the state of Maine, where he then killed a desk clerk at the hotel is was staying at, Lori Ward. He was finally arrested in the state of Maine on November 17, 1987. He was then found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder of Lori Ward.

When Oken was returned to the state of Maryland, he was going to have to face charges for the two homicides, one being Dawn Garvin and the other Patricia Hirt.

Steven Oken Case

Dawn Garvin was sexually assaulted and murdered at her residence in Baltimore County by Steven Howard Oken. It was not until the early hours of November 1, 1987, when Keith Douglas Garvin, Dawn’s husband arrived at his Navy base in Oceana, Virginia. Garvin who was coming back from spending the weekend with his wife as his naval superiors gave him a weekend pass.

Upon Garvin arriving at the navy base, he tried to call his wife to tell her he had made it here safely. While the phone rang at their apartment, there was no answer. Garvin tried to make a few more calls to his wife, but no answer. In true fashion, Garvin was worried and decided it was time to call his father-in-law, Frederick Joseph Romano. Since his father-in-law, Frederick lived close to Dawn and Keith, Garvin asked if he could go over to the apartment and check in on his wife.

Fredrick agreed to go check up on his daughter, Dawn. Just like Dawn’s husband, her husband, he tried calling her and didn’t get any answer. Since her husband already made numerous attempts to try and reach her by phone, and her husband asked him to go down to their shared apartment, the father made his way down there.

When Fredrick arrived at the apartment, this is when he found their front was ajar, and the lights were on, along with the television blaring. This is when Fredrick sort of knew something was run. He ran into the apartment and found Dawn in the master bedroom lying naked with a bottling coming out from her vagina.

Immediately Fredrick started performing CPR. This is when he noticed that there was a bloodstream coming from her forehead. He then called for the paramedics, which arrived a little bit later. The paramedics also tried to perform CPR on Dawn, but she was dead on the scene.

It was not until November 2 at 2:30 AM when the police arrived at the crime scene. A detective testified that when he entered the crime scene, he observed no signs of forced entry. When he was inside the apartment, he noticed a bra, tennis shoes, and a pair of pants, a sweater, and a shirt thrown on the floor in the living room. The detective noted that the bra was still hooked, but it was ripped from the side while the pants were inside out.

The detective also observed a small piece of rubber that could have come from a shoe located near the television. While in the bedroom the detective found two spent .25 caliber shell casings strewn on the bed, one was lying on top of a shirt. The shirt that was on the bed was blood-ridden and to believed had a bullet hole in it.

When the autopsy was performed on Dawn, it was discovered she died due to two contact gunshot wounds one to her right ear and the other to her left eyebrow.

Just two weeks after Oken killed Dawn Garvin, he murdered and sexually assaulted Patricia, his sister-in-law at his home. After this crime, he fled straight for Maine, where he then assaulted the desk clerk at the hotel he was staying in, Lori Ward, 25.

He was finally apprehended on November 17, 1987. He was convicted for the first-degree murder, theft, and robbery of Lori Ward. Oken was slapped with the life without the possibility of parole sentence, along with twenty years for the robbery charge, with an added five years on the theft charge.

After Oken was sentenced, he was brought back to the state of Maryland, where he was going to face charges for the two homicides. First up was the first-degree of Dawn Garvin, burglary, sexual offenses, robbery, daytime housebreaking, handgun violation, and theft.

The state of Maryland had concrete evidence against Oken. The state had the murder weapon that was used. It was found in Oken’s home along with the rubber sole of Oken’s tennis shoe that was located near the television on Garvin’s home. Not to mention a witness that saw Oken in the neighborhood trying to break into a few residences in the days prior to the crime.

Edward Strong, the Kittery Maine Police Chief stated that the murder of Lori Ward was an extremely difficult case for him as his daughter was the same age as Ward. Strong testified within the two murder trials back in Maryland as well. Strong was the one who found the bloody pieces of evidence strewn through the Coachman Motor Inn that linked Oken to all three of the murders.

Oken is going to be the first person to be executed under the brand-new governor’s administration. The Baltimore County prosecutors were planning to execute Oken last spring, but then a moratorium was put in place by Glendening who was the governor at the time. When Governor Ehrlich became governor over the state of Maryland, he was campaigning that he was going to live the ban. He was successful in lifting the ban while he was in the office.

That made Oken be on the fast track to get executed. Oken was the first person that was executed under Ehrlich’s administration and after the moratorium was life.

Maryland Death Row & Execution

Oken was ultimately found guilty. Then on January 18, 1991, Oken received the death penalty for the murder of Dawn Garvin.

Following the guilty verdict in the case of Dawn Garvin, Oken pleaded guilty to the murder of Patricia Hirt, and he received another life sentence on top of his death penalty, and another life sentence from Maine.

Then on June 17, 2004, in the Metropolitan Transition Center located in Baltimore, at the ripe age of 42, Oken was executed by the lethal injection.

Oken’s last meal was what the facility was serving; chicken patty, alongside green beans, marble cake, potatoes and gravy, fruit punch, and milk.

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