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Man sentenced in phone calls

A man suspected of calling dozens of women this summer, identifying himself as "David" and then claming to have their children pleaded no contest to two criminal charges Monday and received a sentence _ 300 days behind bars _ that was close to the maximum.

The state charged Thomas J. Hornbuckle, 25, with two misdemeanor counts of making harassing telephone calls, the maximum penalty for which is 60 days in jail per charge.

Prosecutors also accused Hornbuckle of violating the probation he was serving on four unrelated charges of making harassing calls. The top punishment there was, again, 60 days behind bars per charge.

County Judge Mark Yerman sentenced Hornbuckle to the maximum jail time _ 240 days _ for the violation of probation charges and 30 days each for the two new charges.

Between the time he spent in jail earlier this year and the month or so he spent behind bars on this case, Hornbuckle has credit for 75 days on this sentence, said Assistant Public Defender Angela Miller. That time will be subtracted from the 300-day sentence.

Yerman also put Hornbuckle on probation for a year, ordered him to pay court costs and directed him to seek and complete counseling _ all elements of a plea bargain struck between state prosecutors and Hornbuckle's public defender.

"Your honor, the first time I got into trouble I really didn't think it was a problem, until this time," Hornbuckle told Yerman. "It's something that was uncontrollable, and I feel that counseling now is what I really need."

Law officers in Citrus, Marion and Levy counties received dozens of reports this summer that a man was calling women and claiming to have their children.

The man, who often identified himself as "David," sometimes knew the women's names, what they were wearing and their children's names. He would tell the women that their children were in trouble and then ask the women to meet him.

As it turns out, no children ever were in danger. Although a few women agreed to meet the caller, the man never kept the appointments.

The Citrus County Sheriff's Office quickly focused on Hornbuckle as a suspect, in large part because he had been convicted earlier this year of harassing several other women for some seven years.

Citrus County law officers played samples of Hornbuckle's voice for many of the victims, and several said his voice was identical to that of the man who had called them. Hornbuckle later confessed to making many of the calls, investigators said.

To date, the state attorney's office has filed charges in two cases involving two women; it's unclear whether more charges will be forthcoming.

Bob Hodges, who supervises the prosecutor's office in Inverness, was not available for comment Tuesday. And Hornbuckle's lawyer said she didn't know what to expect.

"If they do (plan to file more charges), they have not told me," Miller said.