A Fairfax Circuit Court judge yesterday brushed aside a prosecutor's recommendation of leniency and sentenced Betty M. Holler to life imprisonment for her role in the murder last year as a Springfield service station owner.
Judge Thomas J. Middleton cited Holler's "cold-blooded, callous and ruthless act" as the admitted go-between in murder-for-hire death of George H. Scarborough in imposing the maximum sentence.
Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., who recommended a 25-year sentence for Holler in return for testimony she gave against other defendants in the case, said later he was "very surprised" by the judge's action. "It's the first major case I have ever had where the judge didn't follow the commonwealth's recommendation," Horan said.
The prosecutor refused to say how the judge's action might affect the willingness of other defendants to cooperate with prosecutors in return for promises of leniency.
Holler, 38, of Alexandria, stood by impassively as Middleton passed sentence, but her relatives and friends in the courtroom broke into tears. Holler's cocounsel, Jason Smolen, who left the hearing room hurriedly afterward, he was "shocked, totally shocked," by the lengthy sentence.
A life sentence means that it will be 15 years before she is eligible for parole, Horan said.
Holler's lawyer said they had hoped for a milder sentence in return for her testimony in the trials of Charles Stewart and James T. Clark, two 21-year-old men from Clinton, Md., convicted last year of killing Scarborough at his Franconia home on Jan. 31, 1978.
According to Holler's testimony, Clark and Stewart received $7,000 for the murder, Clark was sentenced to death and now is on death row at Virginia's maximum security prison in Mecklinburg County. Stewart received a sentence of life imprisonment.
The victim's wife, Jamie Scarborough, was acquitted last October by a Fairfax jury of charges that she initiated and paid for the killing through Holler.
Holler's lawyers argued unsuccessfully yesterday that Holler deserved a lesser sentence since Jamie Scarborough, whom they called "the main principal" in the case, is "free on the streets."