Woman who killed Brooksville man gets 25 years in prison

BROOKSVILLE — As she dozed in the cramped bedroom of Robert Rutherford's apartment, Treva Lynn Anderson said, she was awakened by a pair of hands running between her thighs.

Anderson said she jerked away from Rutherford and shoved him off the bed. She felt trapped. She felt frightened. She felt as if she needed to escape.

And Rutherford stood between her and the front door.

"There was no way to get out of there easily," Anderson said. "I did what I had to do to get out. I freaked out and maybe did more than was necessary at the time."

After almost an hour of testimony that revealed a number of new details about the case, Anderson's troubled past and the dismal set of circumstances that led her to Rutherford's apartment, a Hernando circuit judge on Friday sentenced the 24-year-old woman to 25 years in prison in the death of the man known to most of his friends as "Bunk" or "Bunky,"

"You've had one of the toughest upbringings that I've ever had to hear of," Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing said. "Some people will say this sentence was too lenient or too harsh. … But I think it's fair."

Rutherford, 68, was found beaten and strangled in his Brooksville home on Feb. 14, 2008. Authorities said Rutherford frequently let young women, some of them drug addicts, into his apartment.

But Anderson's tearful testimony during her sentencing hearing was the first public glimpse into what might have led to the grisly scene inside Rutherford's tiny home in the Julian Apartments in Brooksville.

Anderson, who had been abandoned by her mother at an early age and who had been a sexual assault victim, was unemployed; she had been staying in a number of places in the weeks before she was arrested. She said her car had stopped working, forcing her to get around on foot and catch rides from friends and strangers alike.

That was how she came to know "Bunk," Anderson said during a nearly half-hour address at the hearing. She softly read a lengthy, handwritten statement to the judge from five sheets of yellow legal paper.

After Anderson spent a night of talking and drinking with friends at a nearby mobile home park, Rutherford came stumbling into the conversation. Anderson said he was too drunk to drive his car, so she volunteered to drive him back to his house.

Rutherford offered her money for a taxi ride home. Anderson said she took the money, but used the cash to buy cigarettes and food for her dog. She walked to a friend's home that night.

On another night — the night of the murder — Anderson said she borrowed Rutherford's car to meet up with friends at a Brooksville restaurant. When she returned to Rutherford's apartment later that night, Anderson said, he was upset and apparently under the influence of drugs.

Rutherford told her she didn't have permission to borrow his car. Anderson told him he needed to stop taking pills. Then they went to sleep for the night in separate rooms, she said. Later that night, she told the judge, she felt Rutherford's hands on her legs.

At that point, Rushing warned her about going into further detail that could jeopardize a future appeal.

Her eyes filled with tears, Anderson said little else about what happened in the apartment, but she apologized for her actions.

"I get sick to my stomach thinking about his death," she said. "It's hard for me to carry that on my heart. I didn't want this to happen."

Anderson had a drug habit that was escalating at the time of her arrest Feb. 14, court documents show. Three months earlier, she had pleaded no contest and received a probationary sentence for filing a false police report. She claimed she was robbed when in fact she had used the money to buy drugs.

Prosecutors agreed to reduce her first-degree murder charge and cap her sentence at 30 years, instead of life, as part of a deal in the Rutherford case. Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, the county's chief homicide prosecutor, said Rutherford's family had been hoping for the maximum sentence.

"Certainly, the judge gave her a break," Magrino said.

Anderson's public defender, Tricia Jenkins, declined to comment.

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

Woman who killed Brooksville man gets 25 years in prison 07/17/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 17, 2009 9:37pm]

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