Harsher punishments for home invasions

MARYLAND (WUSA9) -- It is a crime that inflicts sheer terror in their victims and lasting mental scars -- that's only if you survive.

We are talking about home invasions which Maryland and Montgomery County has seen an uptick.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed a new bill elevating home invasion from a common burglary or robbery. It could not have happened without local lawmakers, prosecutors and victims.

"When I turned the TV off the lights went off. He was hiding in the unfinished side. When I got to the bottom of the stairs he knocked me to the floor," says Betty Tubbs.

The intruder tied her up, gagged and blindfolded Betty Tubbs as her robber rummaged through her home for an hour.

She says, "I knew that night how lucky I was, I didn't know if he'd beat me or what but I knew I got off easy."

Tubbs was right, because the violence escalated with each of Jose Garcia Perlera's four victims.

He targeted, stalked and terrorized elderly women in their Montgomery County homes.

Perlera's last victim, 63-year-old Mary Havenstein was beaten and killed.

Tubbs and other victims of home invasions in Montgomery County pushed Maryland lawmakers to make these violent crimes more than a burglary or robbery where criminals face a harsher punishment.

"This is a planned confrontation with occupants in a home. It's a different type of crime and needs to be labeled accurately," State's Attorney John McCarthy.

Perlera is serving life for killing Havenstein, but not for the terror it instilled and the mental scars that remain.

Take Monique Anderson's case, where her five intruders were convicted of armed robbery. Monique Anderson says, "They had a gun to my head, the whole family. It was terrifying, at any moment we could be gone."

Her family was tied up, including Monique's father in law. The exception was her mother-in-law who was holding Monique's seven-week-old baby.

"I had just brought this little girl in to the world and I was scared it was going to be her last. She was only a month old," says Anderson.

McCarthy says, "These women were stalked. These people made schedules to break into these houses. This was not an accident these people were home. That's a different type of crime."

"It's bad enough when you are tied up in the home of your basement and you don't know what's going to happen, but what's worse is what happens after that," said Tubbs.

Lawmakers say home invasions are a unique thrill seeking crime. The law goes into effect October 1, 2014 and adds five years to a burglary. A defendant now faces 25 years versus 20 years maximum.

Five years may seem minimal, but with set guidelines a burglar may face seven to 10 years but when a crime is labeled as a home invasion a first offense could net 17-22 come October.

The hope is this deters home invasions just as it did with carjackings versus stealing a car, once a similar law was enacted.

Virginia and DC do not yet have a separate Home Invasion law.


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