Prince George's County Circuit Court judge yesterday sentenced Raymond C. Lubetski to life in prison for stabbing his mother to death last year, but ordered all but three years of the sentence suspended.

Judge William H. McCullough said he "didn't have the heart," to send Lubetski, 24, to the state prison in Baltimore since Lubetski, who has an IQ of 74 according to test, would probably be the target of sexual attacks by other inmates.

He recommended that Lubetski, who has already served 18 months in the Prince George's County Detention Center, since the murder, be placed on a work-release program and be allowed to return to his job as a clerk at a local restaurant while continuing to serve his sentence at the county jail at night.

"I realize that the public at large will not understand suspending all but three years of sentence in a case like this," McCullough said after pronouncing sentence. "But the public did not sit in at this trial and hear the evidence.

"Criticism or no critism I have to do what I think is right and I think this is proper in this case."

Lubetski was convicted of first degree murder June 29 for stabbing his mother, Anna S. Lubetski, 59, to death with a 12-inch butcher knife as she slept.

According to testimony, Lubetski had been arguing with his mother for several months over his girlfriend. He wanted to marry her and his mother would not allow it.

A police tape recording showed that within minutes after the stabbing, Lubetski called police and reported that he had killed his mother and asked them to come to the house and arrest him.

Both defense attorney Joseph A. DePaul and prosecutor Michael Whalen told the judge yesterday that they had tried to find alternatives to the state prison for Lubetski but had found no institution in Maryland for which Lubetski, who is listed as a "borderline mental retard," would be eligible for treatment.

"It's obvious that a case like this is going to tear you apart," Whalen said after the sentencing, "because you just don't know what to do. The Judge's options were limited. A horrible murder had been committed but the circumstances were unusual."

Whalen, who had asked that Lubetski be sent to jail "for a substantial period of time," said that he could understand the judge's reasoning in not wanting to send Lubetski to the state prison. "I think that was a valid consideration," he said.

DePaul, who had requested a new trial and been turned down, argued that with his limited mental capacity, Lubetski "would be a constant target for use and abuse in the jail and it would be cruel and unusual punishment to send him there at this point."

At one point, Judge McCullough asked Lubetski, "do you know what can happen, do you know how large a sentence you can receive?" spreading his hands wide to indicate what he mean by large.

Lubetski said nothing. McCullough asked if Lubetski's lawyers had explained sentencing to him. Lubetski said yes. "Tell me what they said," McCullough said. Again, Lubetski was silent. The judge rephrased the question twice before Lubetski said, "I forgot."

One lawyer in the courtroom watching the sentencing said Lubetski's inability to understand the judge's questions probably had as much to do with the judge's leniency as anything. "What happened showed the judge the problem all over again." the lawyer said.

If McCullough's work-release recommendation is followed, Lubetski could remain at the county detention center in Upper Marlboro and be taken to work from there each morning.

Lubetski's older brother Michael, who lives in Charles County, said he would provide his brother with a home when he is released from prison.