home invasion

Man Accused of Raping Elderly Woman in Merrimac Home Invasion Held Without Bail

William S. Raia, 50, is charged with four counts of aggravated rape, kidnapping, home invasion, strangulation and assault and battery causing bodily injury on an elderly person

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A Massachusetts man faced a judge Tuesday while prosecutors alleged he broke into an elderly woman's home in Merrimac earlier this month where he strangled and raped her.

William S. Raia, 50, of Merrimac, was arrested Monday evening at his home by local and state police, more than two weeks after the July 3 incident, authorities said. Raia is charged with four counts of aggravated rape, kidnapping, home invasion, strangulation and assault and battery causing bodily injury on an elderly person.

Raia was arraigned in Newburyport District Court on Tuesday. He was ordered to be held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing, which is scheduled for Friday.

Authorities allege Raia is the man who broke into a 74-year-old woman's Hillside Avenue home around 11 p.m., the night before the Fourth of July. According to prosecutors, Raia didn't know the victim but he had been watching her, so he knew her routine.

During the terrifying ordeal, the woman woke up to find the man in her bedroom armed with a knife, according to police. The suspect threatened the victim with his knife and repeatedly assaulted her.

Court documents allege that Raia stabbed and pepper sprayed the victim, tormenting her for two hours before she was able to escape and get help from a neighbor.

"This individual terrorized the victim, he beat her about the face and body, he raped her repeatedly," Essex County Assistant District Attorney Kate McDougall said in court.

Neighbors in the community are hoping to get more information and say the biggest concern is that the suspect is still out there.

The woman was taken to Lawrence General Hospital where she was treated and released. She went on to work with a police detective to create a sketch of the suspect, which was released to the public on July 5.

Two weeks later, police arrested Raia. His wife reacted to the news Tuesday, and she can't believe what her husband is accused of doing.

"I don't understand. I'm confused," Raia's wife Kerry said through tears outside the courthouse. "He would never hurt anyone, never jeopardize my family, I don't know."

Kerry Raia said she has not spoken to her husband since his arrest.

"He was going to work last night, and all of the sudden, just bombarded my house, and they just arrested him," she said.

A cellphone and DNA from a beer can recovered from the scene of the attack ultimately helped investigators track down Raia, prosecutors said in court Tuesday.

Neighbors are relieved someone was caught, but horrified to learn that Raia lives right around the corner.

"That's scary, too" said neighbor Laurie Williams. "I don't think anyone in the neighborhood really had an inkling that he was a danger."

"I believe he targeted her because she was an elderly woman alone," Williams added. "I think he preyed on her, so I just hope he never gets out."

A man with a knife assaulted a woman inside her bedroom after breaking into her house.

In the days following the frightening attack, neighbors were concerned that the suspect remained at large, while Merrimac's police chief assured the community that authorities were doing everything they could to locate the suspect as quickly as possible.

"The entire team at the Merrimac Police Department worked diligently on this investigation since it was reported. I'm grateful for them as well as for the assistance of the Essex District Attorney's Office, the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab and the Essex State Police Detective Unit," Eric Shears said in a statement Monday night. "I also appreciate the continued support and patience of our community as we worked to identify and arrest the suspect."

Shears said that although Raia is in custody, this remains an active investigation. Merrimac police, Massachusetts State Police and the Essex District Attorney's Office have been handling the case.

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