A Massachusetts man accused of killing his domestic partner on a beach in York can be seen striking her from behind in video footage captured by surveillance cameras at nearby businesses, police said in an affidavit filed in court Monday.

Multiple witnesses also saw the attack Friday at Short Sands Beach and called police to report a man beating and then dragging another person behind some rocks, the filing says. The police affidavit said it appeared the woman’s attacker used a rock to beat her.

Jeffrey J. Buchannan, 33, of Bedford, Massachusetts, has been charged with a single count of murder in the death of Rhonda Pattelena, 35, also from Bedford. Buchannan will appear in a virtual hearing at York County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon.

Pattelena is the mother of three sons – ages 17, 14 and 2 – and worked as a medical assistant and was studying to become a licensed practical nurse. Buchannan is father of the youngest child.

Pattelena’s friends are planning a celebration of her life Friday evening at Shorts Sands Beach, which was one of her favorite places to visit, according to a childhood friend, Melissa Matranga of Readfield, Massachusetts. The candelight vigil, which is open to the public, will begin at 7:15 p.m.

“Come share in a night of comfort, support and awareness. Let’s make her favorite place have an everlasting memory of who she is and how loved she is,” the vigil’s organizers wrote on Facebook. “Say some words or just listen. Light a candle and join in giving strength and kind support to all family and friends affected by this tragedy.”

Jeffrey Buchannan York County Sheriff’s Office

Police say Pattelena’s body was found on Short Sands Beach after multiple people called 911 just before 4 p.m. Friday to report a man assaulting a woman behind a large rock on the beach. Buchannan was detained by responding officers, taken to the York Police Department and arrested on a murder charge Friday evening, Maine State Police said. He has a criminal record in Massachusetts dating back several years.

An affidavit filed by Maine State Police Detective David Coflesky described the reports from those 911 calls and the surveillance recordings in vivid details.

The first 911 caller told police he saw a man punching Pattelena before dragging her body behind rocks on Short Sands Beach. The caller said the man then started walking off the beach headed on foot in the direction of York Wild Kingdom. The zoo is within walking distance of Short Sands Beach.

Rhonda Pattelena Photo courtesy of Melissa Matranga

Police officers who responded to the 911 call were able to locate and detain Buchannan. Officers from the York and Eliot police departments said they found a significant amount of blood on the sand around her body. They also found a rock that officers said may have been used to cause a significant amount of trauma to her head and face, according to the affidavit.

The videos cited in the affidavit show Buchannan striking Pattelena several more times after the first blow, the affidavit says.

“Following the assault, videos show Buchannan walking away from the scene alone,” Coflesky wrote.

An autopsy conducted by the state medical examiner’s office Saturday concluded Pattelena died of a blunt force injury to the head.

Buchannan spoke to detectives at the police department, according to the affidavit. He told officers that the couple was on the beach together when he saw a man running toward him and saw Pattelena “making hand gestures” behind Buchannan. He told detectives that he felt threatened and “blacked out.”

“When asked if he remembered anything, he advised that he first recalled, breathing heavy and that Rhonda was laying on the ground,” the affidavit said. “He advised that he walked away at that point, leaving Rhonda behind.”

When the detectives asked for more information about his memories, Buchannan declined to speak to them further, the affidavit said.

Buchannan has been held without bail at the York County Jail since his arrest Friday night.

Criminal offender records obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services show that Buchannan was convicted in 2014 of felony kidnapping. He served time in prison before being released in September 2018. The records do not indicate who the victim or victims were in the kidnapping incident. He also has prior convictions in Massachusetts – dating to 2013 – for carrying a dangerous weapon, larceny and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

A GoFundMe fundraising campaign, which was created by Matranga had raised more than $35,ooo by Monday evening.

Matranga said the fundraiser will benefit Pattelena’s children – possibly through some type of trust fund – pay for her funeral expenses, and could be used to pay for the installation of a memorial at Short Sands Beach. Matranga said the town won’t give her permission to install a bench, but might agree to some type of memorial remembrance at Ellis Park. Short Sands Beach is part of Ellis Park and is overseen by a board of trustees.

Pattelena’s sons will live with their grandmother, Matranga said.

“On Friday, March 26, heaven gained an angel. My best friend Rhonda’s life was taken away due to domestic violence. Her life was taken too soon and we are still in shock. She was a single mother and leaves behind three beautiful boys,” Matranga wrote on the GoFundMe website. “Rhonda was a beautiful, loving, caring and generous person, she had such a big heart, she was always smiling and laughing. She was so full of life.”

In a telephone interview Monday evening, Matranga said that Pattelena and Buchannan had been separated for several months before he moved back in with her this year. Matranga said she was deeply concerned about her friend’s well being largely because she didn’t trust Buchannan. She called her friend daily to check in on her.

Eventually, the two women developed a code word – ostrich – that Pattelena promised to text to Matranga if she ever felt threatened and needed help.  Matranga said she never got that text and admits she has no idea what transpired between the two on Short Sands Beach. Whatever did happen, must have happened quickly, she said.

“She loved him and that’s who she wanted to be with,” Matranga said. “She always saw the good in people.”

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

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