Information provided by two of Timothy Joseph Buzbee's colleagues, the sighting of a van on a residential street and a stolen Exxon credit card led Montgomery County police to charge the 26-year-old Buzbee last November with several rapes in the county's Aspen Hill community.
Details of the investigation of the rapes that had terrorized the community for 18 months were revealed for the first time yesterday in court documents that had been sealed from public view since Buzbee's arrest. They were opened under an order issued by Maryland's Court of Special Appeals.
Buzbee's attorney, Reginald Bours III, had tried to keep the records sealed until Buzbee was tried, arguing that they contained a great deal of information that would never be used in court. "These documents contain the reasons police think might be relevant on the question of getting an arrest warrant," Bours said yesterday. "Police throw in everything but the kitchen sink in these."
The documents--affidavits signed by police officers to obtain a warrant to arrest Buzbee--showed that police became interested in him as a suspect last June when a man reported that he observed "a young white male wearing glasses, and possibly having a mustache, operating a van . . . in a suspicious manner" in the county's Strathmore subdivision. The van's registration showed the vehicle belonged to Buzbee's father, according to the affidavit.
Then last October, police interviewed a Metro transit police officer who had worked part time at Buzbee's surveying firm and had known Buzbee since high school. The officer, Michael Price, told police that because of the suspect's physical description and knowledge of the area, he felt that "possibly Buzbee . . . may be involved" in the crimes, according to the affidavits.
Price recalled that several years ago, he and Buzbee parked on a residential street in the county and watched a home for an hour, according to the affidavits.
Price told police that Buzbee "wanted to date a young female who lived at the residence, and was very descriptive about the bedroom the female slept in" although, to Price's knowledge, Buzbee had never been in the house, according to the affidavits.
Police also interviewed a secretary who worked at Almar Associates, the surveying company where Buzbee also worked.
The secretary, Sandra Weikel, the wife of a county police officer, told investigators that last spring she had opened Buzbee's desk and found a "black zipper-type bank bag" that contained "between six and 10 pairs of ladies underwear," according to the affidavits. The bag, she said, was removed from the desk last July, the affidavits said.
Defense attorney Bours said this information "is the perfect example of the type of inadmissible evidence" that the affidavits contain. "The state's attorney prosecutor has told us the panties have nothing to do with the case," Bours said. "The police probably figured they did. They seized them and tested them . . . and they do not belong to any of the victims."
Bours added that he expects "to be presenting evidence in court showing that the affidavits left out important and favorable information to Mr. Buzbee."
A second affidavit said that one rape victim told police that when she was accosted and raped on a Silver Spring street last March, her attacker stole her Exxon credit card.
As police expanded their investigation of Buzbee last October, they sent "nine forged Exxon credit card slips" to the FBI, along with specimens of Buzbee's handwriting taken from such public records as a driver's license and marriage application, according to the affidavit.
The FBI reported that the specimens did not contain sufficient words for "an adequate comparison or any definite determination." They added that they could only say that "Buzbee should not be eliminated as a possible suspect," according to the affidavit.
Prosecutors have said in court that they found the credit card in a drawer of Buzbee's desk at work.
The affidavits also showed that police placed Buzbee under surveillance in October and that five days before arresting him they interviewed FBI agent William John Campbell, a friend of Buzbee's since high school and the godfather of Buzbee's oldest child.
Campbell recalled that during their high school years, "on a number of occasions Tim told me that he would watch girls through windows . . . We could be driving through a neighborhood and he would point to a house and tell me he had seen a girl in there undressing. I had asked him how he knew or was sure, and he would go on to explain where he would be hiding in the bushes under a window or up in a tree," according to the affidavit.
Campbell told police that when Buzbee recently mentioned the Aspen Hill rapes to him in casual conversation, he replied: "I said I was aware of them but that I haven't been following it closely. I said I heard it was in the paper Sunday.
"And," Campbell continued, "Tim said, 'Yeah, the description they have could match me, you or anybody,' " the affidavit said.