This story was corrected at 3:50 p.m. on May 13, 2014. An explanation follows the story.
For Betty Tubbs, the bad part wasn’t being tied up, gagged and blindfolded in the basement, while an intruder sifted through her belongings.
“The worst part is after it’s all over,” said Tubbs, 83, of Chevy Chase Village. “The suspicion and wondering what I could have done differently.”
In 2007, Tubbs was one of several victims targeted by Jose Garcia-Perlera, who stalked his victims before breaking into their homes and robbing them. The victims lived in Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Potomac.
Garcia-Perlera received a life sentence for beating to death Mary Havenstein, one of his victims.
Tubbs said the conviction brought justice, but it wasn’t quite enough.
At the time, there was no legal distinction between burglary and home invasion — what Tubbs and the other victims endured.
“When you say burglary, people think of property crimes, they think of unoccupied homes,” Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said. “These women were stalked. ... It was planned that they would be home. That’s a different type of crime. It’s a huge risk to human safety. But for the bravery of Mrs. Tubbs and her own ingenuity she may not be with us here today.”
Lawmakers in Annapolis agreed.
On April 14, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law a new measure that will treat home invasions differently, giving them maximum 25-year sentences. A burglary conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
The law takes effect Oct. 1.
“We needed to create a new law that would effectively fight and deter this type of crime and give prosecutors the tools they need,” said Del. Susan C. Lee (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda, who tried to get the law passed for four years. She said some lawmakers felt that home invasions didn’t need special distinction and it was adequate to classify them as burglaries.
There were 36 home invasions reported in Montgomery County in 2013, according to crime statistics provided by the state’s attorney’s office.
Tubbs and several other Montgomery County home invasion victims testified in Annapolis in support of the law.
On May 7, some of the victims joined Lee; Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville, who sponsored the bill in the Senate; and McCarthy in Rockville on to celebrate the bill’s passage.
One victim was a housekeeper who was sexually assaulted by an intruder at a Bethesda residence in 2012. The woman asked to remain anonymous during last week’s event. The Gazette does not typically name victims of sex crimes.
According to court filings, her assailant placed a gun against her head and forced her inside the home, where the homeowner and her son were. After the intruder took cash and credit cards, he ordered the housekeeper into a bathroom and sexually assaulted her.
Kevin Darnell Ray, 35, of Fort Washington, Md., was sentenced to life plus 340 years in connection with the home invasion, according to Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the State’s Attorney’s Office.
Ray filed an appeal, which was heard April 11 in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. An opinion has not yet been issued.
Tubbs said she was alone watching TV during her home invasion on Nov. 27, 2007.
At first, it was just like any other night. It was 11:30 p.m., the evening news had just gone off, and she was about to go to bed.
Then, the lights went black.
“He timed it right,” she said. “He knew that I turned off the TV and went to bed at 11:30.”
Garcia-Perlera, 39, of Hyattsville had cut the lights and was waiting in the basement when Tubbs went to check the fuse.
He shoved her to the ground and tied her up, then went off looking for things to steal. Periodically, he returned to the basement, demanding to know where she kept her money.
“Finally, I thought, well, maybe I can pretend like the old lady who gave up,” Tubbs said. “So, the next time he came down and said, ‘Where’s the money?,’ I said, ‘Oh, you wore me out. ... Go look. There’s some money in my purse.’”
With $60 from her purse and several of her personal belongings in hand, Garcia-Perlera climbed out a basement window he had broken his way through, leaving Tubbs tied up in the basement with clothes line cord — which she had loosened 10 minutes after he arrived.
“I knew that I couldn’t do any harm if I attacked him, so I was just using it to be able to get loose when he left,” Tubbs said.
One of Garcia-Perlera’s victims wasn’t as lucky. McCarthy said the woman wasn’t discovered for four days at her home in Potomac. Pistol-whipped and beaten, she had been tied up for so long, she lost the use of her hands.
In another case, on Jan. 29, 2011, Monique Anderson, 22, and her family were tied up by five assailants with knifes and guns. They forced their way through the door of their Colesville residence claiming to be police officers.
Anderson was recovering from child birth when it happened. Her daughter was a month old at the time.
The men ordered them to lie on the ground. They tied up Anderson, her husband and her father in-law. Her mother in-law was left free because she happened to be tending to the baby when the intruders barged in.
“I had just brought this little girl into the world and I was scared it was going to be her last day,” Anderson said. “It was very terrifying for our whole family, thinking we were going to be gone at any moment.”
The men searched the home for money and claimed they were looking for drugs. “Which weren’t present in the house,” Anderson said.
After the men left, the family was afraid to open the door when the real police arrived. The five invaders were brought to justice, but Anderson said the family never fully recovered.
“For months, nobody could sleep at night,” Anderson said. “Everybody is up watching windows, making sure that no one’s there or coming to our door. Every knock at our door, we never know what to expect.”
An earlier version of this story had an incorrect date for when Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the bill into law.