Creswell couple arrested Prostitution alleged in massage service

September 20, 1992|By Phyllis Brill and Carol L. Bowers | Phyllis Brill and Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writers

The newspaper ad for massages promised a "quiet, discreet setting" with plenty of privacy. And, to hear police tell it, the occupants of the house on rural Calvary Road in Creswell apparently delivered that -- and more.

But most of those who live near the couple arrested on prostitution charges said they were unaware of anything unusual going on at the house in the serene, wooded community.

Robert Dean Burchett, 49, and Julie Gaye Burchett, 40, were charged Tuesday with running a prostitution operation in their home, where police said they secretly videotaped clients having sex with Mrs. Burchett.

The husband and wife were released Thursday from the Harford County Detention Center after paying $25,000 bond each.

A pre-trial hearing for the Burchetts has been set for Oct. 19, with a trial date of Nov. 19.

The Burchetts' house sits in the middle of a row of a half-dozen ranchers along an otherwise deserted stretch. The houses border trees on three sides and cornfields across Calvary Road in the isolated community where residents keep to themselves and don't get too friendly with the neighbors.

That makes an ideal setting for a peaceful, private lifestyle -- or, police suggest, for keeping a shady business out of the sight of authorities.

"We were completely surprised [by the arrest]. We never suspected anything," said a woman who lives two doors from the Burchett home, in the 2500 block of Calvary Road.

"We would see different people over there, but we just thought they were friends."

The couple's arrest stemmed from an Aug. 28 visit to the couple's home by an undercover state trooper responding to an ad in the City Paper for "J. G.'s Body Tender Massage."

Mrs. Burchett was arrested that day after police said she offered the trooper sex for money. She was charged with solicitation for prostitution and maintaining a residence for prostitution, said Joseph I. Cassilly, Harford's state's attorney.

While at the Burchett home, police seized nine videotapes and records of transactions kept in notebooks, Mr. Cassilly said.

Tuesday, police returned to the couple's home and charged Mr. and Mrs. Burchett with child abuse, and Mr. Burchett with producing child pornography and maintaining a house for prostitution.

The charges of child abuse against the couple stemmed from a sexually explicit videotape showing a girl who was under 18 at the time performing a sex act and modeling lingerie, police said.

Two neighbors said Mr. Burchett told them about a year ago that he and his wife were starting a courier service from their home and that they would be answering and receiving a lot of messages.

"He even told us of all the telephone equipment he had to buy to support all that," said Steve Harrington, who lives next door. He said the couple moved in about two years ago.

Mr. Harrington said the couple spent a lot of time fixing up the house and property, which were in poor condition when they moved in, including paving the driveway, cutting down overgrown trees in front of the house and renovating the inside of the house.

He said that when the remodeling was done, he was invited in to see the finished home.

"The basement was kind of elaborate," said Mr. Harrington. "It had a big hot tub and built-in stereo equipment and a bar with mirrors all around.

"It was flashy."

The Burchetts, he said, sometimes had barbecues with family members on weekends, but otherwise pretty much kept to themselves.

"They weren't an overly sociable couple, but they weren't bad neighbors either," said Mr. Harrington.

"Other than all the comings and goings, they were no different than other people."

Other neighbors, with even less occasion to talk to the Burchetts, knew even less of their lifestyle.

They heard from them only on Sunday mornings when Mr. Burchett would play his guitar on the deck, or when his friends would come over to play country music.

As for the variety of vehicles that would be parked on the driveway, neighbors assumed the Burchetts had a lot of friends.

"There were all kinds of people and automobiles over there," said one neighbor, who didn't want to be named.

When traffic next door increased, the Harringtons said, they did begin to question the nature of their neighbors' in-home business.

"I mean, it doesn't take two hours to pick up a message," said Mr. Harrington's wife, Barbara, who is usually home during the day, when she said most of the couple's visitors would arrive.

Mr. Cassilly, the state's attorney, said police found no evidence that any woman other than Mrs. Burchett was involved in the nTC alleged prostitution, and no children live at the couple's home now.

"We're guessing from records and other information that this has been going on about three years," said Mr. Cassilly, "but not necessarily at the same address." The couple previously lived in Forest Hill.

Area residents with young children were alarmed by the Burchetts' arrest.

"I'm not extremely upset, but I am concerned about the child abuse charge," said George Baker, who has a 9-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter.

It was the seclusion of the neighborhood that made the alleged prostitution possible in the community, Mr. Cassilly suggested.

"Part of the advantage of the isolation was that customers could come and go," he said.

"Even if the neighbors see them, they probably were not going to recognize them. If you were a customer, you wouldn't want to go home and have your wife say, 'Hi, honey, I saw you getting out of a car on such-and-such a street.' "

The clients were obviously unaware they were being videotaped, Mr. Cassilly said.

"Apparently, the couple just put the camera out of the way or off to one side," Mr. Cassilly said, "and the clients didn't notice it."

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