A Montgomery County judge sentenced a former Prince George’s County teacher to more than 128 years in prison this past week for the repeated rape and sexual abuse of a female student more than 10 years ago.
Fernando A. Asturizaga, 46, was found guilty in February of four counts each of second-degree rape and third-degree sex offense, as well as eight counts of second-degree sex offense and two counts of child abuse following a four-day jury trial before Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Marielsa Bernard. Asturizaga, of the unit block of School Street in Montpelier, Vt., was the victim’s teacher at the Friends Community School in College Park, when the abuse began in 1999, police said.
While county Assistant State’s Attorneys Karla Smith and Donna Fenton originally asked the judge for a longer sentence, prosecutors were ultimately pleased with Bernard’s sentence of 128-and-a-half years, said Ramon V. Korionoff, a spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office.
“Donna and Karla initially asked for 200 years because we believed the guidelines were for between 200 and 260 years, but then the guidelines were amended and brought down to between 90 to 102 years,” Korionoff said. “However, the defendant won’t be eligible for parole until he’s 110 years old, so it’s a situation where he’s been held accountable for those horrific crimes that he committed.”
County Public Defender Theresa Chernosky, who represented Asturizaga, could not be reached for comment following Friday’s hearing. Chernosky mentioned the possibility of filing an appeal in the case after her client’s trial in February.
At some point, Asturizaga also began to babysit the victim at her Silver Spring home and at a second residence in Bethesda, becoming a close family friend, police and family members said during Asturizaga’s trial. The victim, who was 10 when the abuse started, did not initially approach police or family members about the abuse, police said. Asturizaga showered the girl with gifts and affection at the time of the abuse, prosecutors said at trial.
The abuse lasted until at least 2001, police said.
Asturizaga also was a suspect in the ongoing homicide investigation of the victim’s mother, who was reported missing on May 24, 2000, shortly after the mother began to suspect Asturizaga’s relationship with the victim, prosecutors said. Bernard ultimately barred prosecutors from mentioning the homicide investigation at trial because Asturizaga was only charged in relation to the rapes and sexual offenses of the victim.
Prosecutors declined to discuss details of the homicide investigation after Friday’s sentencing hearing.
“At this time it’s an active homicide investigation and we’re working closely with police and other authorities to get to the bottom of it,” Korionoff said.
The victim, now in her 20s, was present at Asturizaga’s sentencing along with family members and police detectives who investigated the case.
“I sat next to [the victim] in the courtroom and it was obviously really emotional for her,” said Montgomery County police Det. Katie Leggett, a Family Crimes detective who worked on the case. “I’m just ecstatic that the victim got justice; it was just a great day for us.”