In a timid, halting voice, often no more than a whisper, a 16-year-old rape victim tried to tell a packed Montgomery County courtroom yesterday how the routine of a summer night two years ago was shattered when a man accosted her in her home, abducted her and then raped her. But at one crucial point, the small, dark-haired figure on the witness stand could no longer get out the words.
She met the prosecutor's questions with silence and an agonized, pleading look. The judge's attempts to gently get the information failed, too.
Finally, the prosecutor asked, "Do you feel you can say the words relating to any sex acts involved?"
"No," she said.
And then in an action apparently unprecedented in the county Circuit Court, the girl was handed a legal pad and felt-tipped pen. In the hushed courtroom, she bent her head and wrote three short but graphic sentences that ended with the words, "He then had intercourse with me." The sentences were read to the jury only after she had completed her testimony and walked swiftly from the room.
The girl held the rapt attention of her audience for nearly three hours in the trial of Timothy Joseph Buzbee, who is charged with kidnaping and rape stemming from the July 30, 1981, incident.
Buzbee is scheduled to stand trial in coming months on charges related to three later rapes, a series of crimes that has come to be known as the Aspen Hill rapes, for the neighborhood in which they occurred. Buzbee, a 25-year-old land surveyor who grew up in the county, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Except for her one silence, the victim testified in minute detail about the events that began as she was walking from the den to the kitchen of her Aspen Hill home and was grabbed from behind by a man who covered her mouth and eyes with his hands and forced her into her bedroom. According to previous testimony, the man had broken into the house, where the victim was alone, through a window in another bedroom.
She testified that in her bedroom the man forced her to tie two pairs of socks together. One pair he used as a blindfold, and the second as a gag. Then, she said, he forced her outside to his car and drove around, telling her he "was going to take a lot of turns to confuse me." After a short drive, the man took her into a house and up to a bedroom, where the rape occurred, according to her testimony.
At one point, her blindfold was removed and she briefly saw her attacker's face, she told the jury. "I didn't look at it. It was there . . . the face was in front of me at one point, but I couldn't tell you what it looked like."
After Buzbee's arrest last November, the victim viewed a lineup, but she did not pick out Buzbee or any of the participants as her attacker, according to yesterday's testimony.
However, she told the jury that she listened intently to her attacker's voice that July night. It was "average except for a speech impediment," that was unlike anything she had ever heard before, she testfied.
Last year, she was able to identify that voice by listening to a series of telephone conversations conducted by police with Buzbee and several other men. During that so-called voice lineup, the victim testified yesterday, she told detectives she "was pretty sure" one of the voices was that of her attacker.
Prosecutor Barry Hamilton has told the jury that the voice she identified was the defendant's.
As she concluded her testimony, the victim told Hamilton that during the abduction, "I didn't think I was coming back . . . . I thought I was going to die."
But the assailant did take her home, depositing her in her back yard with a warning not to look back, she said. While driving her home, she said, he had told her, "If I reported it to police, I'd have to go to the hospital for all kind of tests . . . and then everyone would know and it would be in the newspapers."
During his cross-examination, defense attorney Reginald W. Bours III questioned the victim about the details she gave of her attacker's car and the house where she was taken. She had testified that she had been able to see out from under the blindfold during the entire incident.
Bours apparently was trying to lay the groundwork for showing, as he promised in his opening statement, that authorities "have prosecuted the wrong man."
Bours said he would show that prosecutors were "attempting to stretch and strain the evidence to fit Mr. Buzbee, when the evidence doesn't fit at all." Bours questioned, for example, a former FBI technician, who testifed that several male body hairs found on the victim "probably originated from the defendant." Under Bours' questioning, Morris Clark acknowledged that body hairs are not a positive means of identification.
Testimony ended yesterday as the victim left the witness stand with a sigh that could be heard throughout the courtroom, and walked outside to her parents' arms.