Timothy Joseph Buzbee, convicted as the Aspen Hill rapist, was sentenced yesterday to two consecutive terms of life in prison, plus 50 years, the maximum sentence allowable for his conviction for kidnaping and raping a 15-year-old girl in the upper-middle-income suburban community.
The sentencing by Montgomery Circuit Judge John J. Mitchell came at the end of a hearing in which Buzbee's wife Joanne, called as a defense witness, tearfully testified that Buzbee is a loving and devoted father but then acknowledged that their marriage "is definitely over" and that she doesn't know whether she wants their two children to see him in the future.
Under questioning by prosecutor Barry Hamilton, Joanne Buzbee also acknowledged that she had told authorities doing a presentence report that she hopes her 25-year-old husband "can find treatment to help him with his obvious problems." She said she was referring to Buzbee's conviction last January for trespassing in an incident in which he followed a 9-year-old girl home and peered in the windows of her house. "As far as I'm concerned, that is a problem that should be worked out," she said, concluding her testimony.
Yesterday's sentencing stemmed from the first of four rape cases in which Buzbee is charged and in which two convictions have so far been obtained. Before imposing sentence, the judge also heard from family friends who portrayed Buzbee as a hard-working, diligent land surveyor who doted on his two daughters, aged 3 and 5, and has called to talk with them three times a day since his incarceration last November.
Then, the rape victim's mother was called to the stand and testified that her daughter had "changed remarkably" since the crime from a "sweet, gentle, affectionate child" to a girl who "locked herself away from the world," refusing to share with anyone "the burden" of the events of July 30, 1981, when she was gagged and blindfolded, taken from her home and raped.
Defense attorney Reginald W. Bours III called on Mitchell to impose "a fair sentence," asserting that, before his arrest, Buzbee "was a model citizen in many, many ways."
But the prosecutor argued that there "are two Tim Buzbees . . . the hard-working Tim Buzbee, an asset to his family, and the Tim Buzbee who is a heinous criminal rapist."
After hearing arguments, the judge looked at the defendant and said, "I do consider Mr. Buzbee to be a great danger to the community." Mitchell added that he regretted the effect of the case on Buzbee's relatives and on the teen-age victim and her family.
Then, in the hushed and crowded courtroom, the judge announced: "As to . . . first degree rape, the sentence is that you be confined to the Maryland Division of Correctons for the balance of your natural life . . . . "
Buzbee stood staring stoically, as he had at other critical junctures in his trials, as the judge added another consecutive life term for conviction of a first degree sexual offense, 30 years for kidnaping and 20 years for burglary, a charge that stems from Buzbee breaking into the victim's home.
The sentences, which exceeded Maryland's sentencing guidelines, came as a sharp contrast to the concurrent life sentences imposed months ago by another Maryland judge on the two men convicted of the rape and murder of Stefanie Ann Roper of Prince George's County. The sentences, which would make those defendants eligible for parole in about 12 years, set off a public outcry and a highly publicized citizen campaign for tougher sentencing.
Mitchell, at the request of defense attorney Bours, said he would recommend that Buzbee be sent to the Patuxent Institution, a state corrections facility for emotionally disturbed defendants. Assignment there will depend upon Patuxent's evaluation of Buzbee. If he is accepted, Buzbee could be released at any time with the approval of Patuxent officials and the approval of the governor.
If Buzbee is instead sent to prison, he would first be eligible for parole in about 36 years, even with all possible time off for good behavior, according to the State Parole Commission. Under state law, because Buzbee was sentenced to life, the governor would have to approve his parole.
The victim's mother said after the sentencing that her daughter is pleased "that the system does work. She hopes the sentence will be a comfort to all other victims. . . . My thoughts are with the Buzbee family," the woman continued. "They're victims as I am in many ways."
Before the sentencing, Bours had asked the judge to throw out Buzbee's conviction and order a new trial because, he said, the conviction was based on "inaccurate testimony" by several prosecution witnesses. Bours charged that the witnesses, including two police officers, had given testimony to make Buzbee's car and his parents' home fit descriptions given by the victim of her attacker's car and the house where she was raped.
After hearing the arguments and studying evidence from the trial, over which he presided, Mitchell said, "I conclude the motion for a new trial should be denied."