March 2, 2013

Fairfield grandmother credits pit bull with saving her from strangulation

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FAIRFIELD — A woman accused of trying to strangle her 79-year-old mother with a rope this week has a history of mental health problems, illegal gun possession and violent behavior.

Fairfield police arrested Bonny Lou Buzzell, 48, and charged her with aggravated assault and assault Monday. She is in Somerset County Jail.

Buzzell’s mother, Viola Hutchins, 79, of Hutchins Road, said her life was saved when her pit bull, Kaiser, fended off the alleged attack, which police said involved a rope noose. 

Hutchins said she the incident shocked her.

“I never worried about her hurting anybody,” Hutchins said. “I figured that she wouldn’t hurt me on a bet.”

Hutchins said she was too upset to talk about the details of the incident, but she credits Kaiser, a dog which she nursed back to health from near-starvation when she took it in, with saving her life.

“He’s very, very protective of me,” she said. “I do think if it weren’t for him I probably wouldn’t be here today.”

The alleged attack happened after a disagreement Monday evening between Hutchins and Buzzell about bringing firewood into the home, according to Buzzell’s 29-year-old daughter, Renee Reynolds. She learned of the incident from Hutchins, she said.

During the alleged attack, the dog bit Buzzell on the arm hard enough to cause bleeding, ending the incident and allowing Hutchins to dial 911, according to Reynolds.

Sgt. Matt Bard of the Fairfield police said officers responded to the call from Hutchins a little past 7 p.m. Monday, but Buzzell already had left the area and could not be found.  

About two hours later, when Buzzell returned to the residence, a confrontation with family members turned physical. 

Reynolds said she was allegedly attacked by her mother, which included punches to the face. 

Police said family members held Buzzell on the couch while they called 911 again; police arrived about 10 minutes later and arrested her without further incident. Bard said no one was seriously injured in either incident. 

Buzzell was charged with aggravated assault against her mother, Hutchins, and assault against her daughter, Reynolds.

Under Maine law, aggravated assault applies in “the use of strangulation,” defined as “the intentional impeding of the breathing or circulation of blood of another person by applying pressure on the person’s throat or neck.” It is a class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Assault is a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Buzzell’s criminal history includes at least three incidents of assault and time in a psychiatric hospital.

In 2009, the U.S. District Court in Bangor sentenced Buzzell, then named Bonny Reynolds, to 24 months in prison and three years of supervised released because she had two .22-caliber revolvers. She was not allowed to have firearms because in 2006 she was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital, according to the U.S. attorney at the time. 

Buzzell was convicted twice in 2012 of assault in addition to various lesser crimes over the last several years, according to court records.

Reynolds and Hutchins both said that they are fearful Buzzell will hurt herself or someone else in the family after she is released.

Hutchins said that more than anything, she wants Buzzell to receive care that will improve her mental health.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
mhhetling@centralmaine.com

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