Ex-firefighter sentenced to 40 years for attacks

February 15, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

A former Howard County volunteer firefighter convicted of attacking five prostitutes in 1991 and 1992 begged for forgiveness from his victims before being sentenced to 40 years in prison yesterday.

James Scott Botschen, 32, was given the sentence in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court as part of a plea agreement he accepted Dec. 6 on charges of attempted murder and attempted first-degree rape for the attacks.

Botschen told the judge that he was "devastated" to learn that he caused extensive injuries to the women.

The plea agreement covers charges that Botschen attacked four prostitutes on consecutive nights along a deserted cul-de-sac in Brooklyn Park in the first four days of September 1992 and that he attacked and left for dead a fifth prostitute in Frederick County on May 25, 1991.

"I am truly and deeply sorry for what I've done," Botschen said, reading from a prepared statement.

Judge Raymond Thieme Jr. sentenced Botschen to two life sentences, but suspended all but 40 years of each term. Botschen will be permitted to serve the sentences simultaneously.

"I am convinced he is an extremely dangerous individual," Judge Thieme said.

Botschen, who was named Savage's Fireman of the Year in 1990, must serve at least 15 years of the sentence before he is eligible for parole, under state law. Judge Thieme said he will recommend that Botschen serve the sentence at Patuxent Institution, the state's primary rehabilitation prison in Jessup.

Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank Weathersbee asked Judge Thieme to give Botschen a stiff sentence. He noted that Botschen has a prior conviction for beating a sixth prostitute in 1991.

"Mr. Botschen has done this before," the prosecutor said. "It's a very serious offense. . . . He certainly deserves the maximum."

But public defenders representing Botschen argued for a lenient sentence. They noted that several psychiatric evaluations of their client show that he needs treatment.

Assistant Public Defender Paul Hazlehurst noted that one evaluation concluded that Botschen suffers from paraphilia, a disorder that causes uncontrollable sexual urges.

The defense attorney said Botschen comes from a dysfunctional family with a history of psychiatric disorders and alcohol abuse. Botschen, who was living out of his car at the time of the incidents, has not seen his mother since 1981. The defendant's father abandoned the family in 1976.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped 35 charges, including two counts of first-degree rape and numerous sexual offenses.

Mr. Hazlehurst said in December that the decision to accept the plea agreement was influenced by the possibility that prosecutors could use letters written by Botschen graphically describing the attacks.

He added that Botschen decided against pursuing his initial plea of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity because of the difficulty of proving his condition.

Botschen was arrested on Sept. 4, 1992, after state police troopers had staked out Swan Creek Road in search of the driver of an old yellow sedan who reportedly had attacked women there on the three previous nights.

The victims told police strikingly similar stories. They reported that Botschen picked them up, engaged them in sex acts and then attacked them with a knife, prosecutors said.

Troopers spotted the car, a Chrysler Newport, at about 2 a.m. Sept. 4 as it drove down the street with its lights off, prosecutors said.

The troopers approached the car, where they found a partially nude woman sitting across from Botschen, prosecutors said. She fled from the car and went to the troopers.

The woman, who said she was a prostitute, told the troopers that Botschen pulled out a 13-inch kitchen knife and ordered her to take off her clothing, prosecutors said. He then ordered the half-naked woman to pose for a Polaroid picture.

In the Frederick case, Botschen drove a woman he met in Baltimore to a wooded area off Greenfield Road in Frederick, where he repeatedly beat her on May 25, 1991, prosecutors said.

The woman was discovered two days later by hikers, prosecutors said.

She was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital, where she underwent reconstructive surgery.

The investigation into the attack was suspended after police were unable to develop any leads, prosecutors said.

The case was renewed when Botschen was arrested for the Anne Arundel attacks.

Police obtained three Polaroid pictures of the victim in the Frederick case after Botschen's arrest. In one picture, the woman is seated in the passenger seat of a pickup. In another, she is standing outside the vehicle. In the third, she is lying unconscious in a pool of blood.

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