To his parents, Timothy Joseph Buzbee was the perfect product of suburban Montgomery County. He embodied the best values of the middle-class neighborhood where he grew up, values passed on from his hard-working parents and his teachers in parochial high school. He was responsible, intelligent and devoted to his wife and children.
When the 26-year-old Buzbee called home one night last month, his parents were stunned and their usually quiet lives shattered when he told them that he had been arrested on charges of rape.
The son they knew to be an upstanding citizen was being accused by Police Chief Bernard D. Crooke at a press conference of being the Aspen Hill rapist, accused of bringing more than a year of terror to a tranquil upper-income section of the county. Buzbee was charged and later indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury on four counts of rape, one count of attempted rape, one count of robbery and four counts of burglary over a 14-month period. In addition, Buzbee was charged with one count of robbery in another case that preceded these. He is being held without bond in the Montgomery County detention center.
The charges against Buzbee shocked his parents, William M. and Jo Marie Buzbee, who, like hundreds of other residents of the Aspen Hill area, had taken extra precautions to protect the family against an attack by a person sought by police for 16 rapes or sexual assaults in the 18 months before Buzbee's arrest.
The windows were nailed shut in the family's picture-perfect two-story, modern brick colonial home and bars were put on the doors. The family changed its life style so that their 23-year-old daughter would not be left at home alone, William Buzbee said.
Today, after their son's arrest and the subsequent indictments against him, the Buzbees are unwavering in their belief that their son is innocent and will be exonerated when he comes to trial.
"I feel the police have just made a big mistake," said William Buzbee, an attorney who said he has lost 11 pounds in the last month because of frustrations resulting from his son's arrest. "Tim has never gotten into any trouble. He has always been a responsible, law-abiding person with a bright future ahead of him."
Jo Marie Buzbee, who said she has started going to Catholic prayer daily since her son's arrest, said, "It's been like a bad dream. You want to pretend it never happened." She only recently has been able to bear the emotional strain of discussing her son's plight. "Even when I go to visit him in the jail, I have to force myself to admit that he has been arrested. But I keep telling myself the man they arrested is not my Timmy."
Since the arrest, Timothy Buzbee's wife, Jo Ann, and their two young daughters have moved in with her parents in Silver Spring. William Buzbee said the $60,000 house the young couple purchased two years ago in Frederick is being sold to pay off some of the debts that have piled up since Timothy's arrest.
William Buzbee said he may have to mortgage his $200,000 home, in the Flower Valley subdivision of the Aspen Hill area, to help pay his son's legal expenses, which he said are expected to mount well into six figures.
Buzbee's parents and some of his friends and former neighbors portray him as an above-average youngster who had become a model husband and father.
Buzbee's father said he had a normal childhood. In response to questions by a reporter about comments by a former neighbor and a former playmate of Buzbee, his father recalled one incident involving his younger son.
"I believe Timmy was nine then," William Buzbee said. "When I came home from work, my wife told me she found some girls' underpants in Timmy's room. We decided to take him to a doctor, who told us the incident was just the result of a young boy's curiosity.
"Tim and I never sat down and had the so-called talk about the birds and the bees," Buzbee said. "He learned things gradually. By the time I thought we should be having a father-son talk, he already knew."
Reginald W. Bours III, Buzbee's lawyer, had no comment.
A man five years older than Buzbee remembers Buzbee as a likable boy who chose to associate with people older than himself. "A group of us older guys would be playing basketball in somebody's back yard and Timmy would come up and ask if he could play," the man said. "We'd tell him to get lost and he wouldn't argue, he'd just walk away."
Buzbee, who graduated in 1975 from Good Counsel High School in Silver Spring, took courses at Montgomery College and, at the time of his arrest, was enrolled at the University of Maryland in hopes of becoming a registered land surveyor. A couple of his high school teachers remember him as "a very average guy."
"As far as I can remember, we developed a pleasant and very nice relationship," said Thomas Kolar, who taught Buzbee in a social science class. "I was shocked when I heard he'd been charged with the crimes. I'll be even more shocked if it turns out he's guilty."
Marilyn Judge, another social studies instructor, remembers Buzbee as "very pleasant and polite. He was the kind of guy who said, 'Hi' to you when you passed him in the halls."
Buzbee's lawyer, Bours, said: "From everything I know about Timothy, he is an extremely intelligent and personable person." Bours said the lawyers' code of ethical conduct prevents him from commenting further until the case comes to trial.
At the first hearing in Buzbee's case, Montgomery County District Court Judge Charles Woodward, at Bours' request, sealed all records in the case.
"My only objective in asking that the records be sealed is to see to it that my client gets a shot at a fair trial," Bours said.
Bours said that statements by Police Chief Crooke the night of Buzbee's arrest that "We have arrested the Aspen Hill rapist" left many county residents convinced that Buzbee is guilty of the crimes.
"The jury should be able to make their decision based on evidence presented at trial, not on statements made by the police or statements in the press," Bours said.
Life for the Buzbees was more settled 12 years ago as William Buzbee, the son of an Arkansas carpenter, eagerly charted a course of upward mobility for his daughter and two sons.
Determined that his children would have more advantages than he did, William Buzbee attended school at night and earned a law degree after he had launched his own land-surveying business. There were parochial schools for the children and a house on a quiet, tree-lined street in Silver Spring. Eventually, the Buzbees moved into an even more attractive and costly neighborhood near Rockville.
In time, the family bought a beach house in Ocean City and in recent years skiing has become a favorite family pastime.
Timothy Buzbee worked periodically in his father's land-surveying firm since he was 14, and took over the $200,000-a-year operation called Almar and Associates, in Gaithersburg, three years ago. Within another four years, the business would have belonged to Timothy Buzbee, his father said.
"There was never any doubt that that business would belong to Tim and he knew that," said William Buzbee, who saw much of his own ambition and drive reflected in Timothy. "That's why I wanted him to go to school to get his license and get registered as a land surveyor.
"If I had to pick a perfect job for Tim, or the perfect company for him to run, it would be a construction firm. Tim just loved to see things built," Buzbee said. "I think he enjoyed surveying work. And since I didn't own a construction company, I decided to give him the next best thing.
"Both of my boys have worked for the surveying company, but my older son was not cut out for it," added Buzbee, who said his firm was paying Timothy $21,000 a year. "Tim was the type who'd work from daylight to dark. I've seen him have to hold a flashlight to read the measurements on the tape -- just to get the job done."
As the Buzbees sat on a couch in their family room recently, their emotions appeared shattered -- but not the image of their son.
"I don't believe Tim is the Aspen Hill rapist," Buzbee said. "But I have to assume that the police have something or they wouldn't have arrested him. After a while, you begin to wonder if maybe you went wrong -- maybe I didn't raise him right . . . .
"Tim has been the one I've always been able to depend on," recalled Buzbee, as tears welled up in his reddened eyes. "If I had to go out and rake the leaves, my oldest son would go and hide, but Tim was a real worker."
"He's got so many good qualities," said Jo Marie Buzbee, as she gently touched her husband's hand and fought back the tears. "He was always the one who was helpful around the house. He always seemed to be tuned in to your feelings. He was understanding, sympathetic."
"Do the police absolutely have to be wrong in their charges against your son?" a visitor asked.
"I hope to God they're wrong," she responded. "If it's Tim, it's not the Tim I know."