A Massachusetts man charged with fatally beating his domestic partner on a Maine beach was ordered held without bail Tuesday.
Jeffrey Buchannan, 33, of Bedford, Massachusetts, is charged in the killing of his domestic partner, Rhonda Pattelena, 35, at Short Sands Beach in York, officials said. He appeared before a judge in York County on Tuesday.
The judge also ordered a mental health evaluation for Buchannan, who did not enter a plea during the videoconference appearance. A follow-up conference was scheduled for May 12.
Buchannan was represented by attorney Jon Gale, of Portland, during the brief court appearance Tuesday. Gale requested the mental health evaluation for Buchannan. Gale did not return a call seeking comment after the appearance.
On Tuesday, some of Pattelena's friends from Massachusetts gathered on Short Sands Beach to mourn.
They collected rocks and sat remembering someone they called a "very hardworking, very outgoing, very loving woman," in her favorite place.
"When I think about Rhonda, I think about how beautiful a woman she was, how great a mother she was," said Matilyn Glenn, a friend of Pattelena's from Lowell. "She was everything to everybody, and without her, it's not going to be the same."
The attack that happened behind a rock on the beach prompted multiple 911 calls to York police on Friday.
An affidavit filed on Monday stated that witnesses reported seeing Buchannan leave the scene on foot before being apprehended, the Portsmouth Herald reported. Some of the assault was captured on a surveillance video from nearby businesses, the affidavit stated.
The video appears to show Buchannan hit Pattelena while her back is turned to him. The affidavit stated that police collected evidence from the scene including the rock that appeared to be the weapon in the assault.
Buchannan told police he blacked out prior to the alleged assault.
Pattelena was already dead when police arrived; an autopsy concluded she died from head injuries.
State police said the two were domestic partners and had one child together. The child wasn’t present during the attack.
Friends of Pattlelena are organizing a public vigil at the beach that is slated to take place at 7:15 p.m. Friday. Participants are asked to wear masks and comply with pandemic precautions on distancing.
Pattelena's friends at the beach on Tuesday hoped the vigil and her story would encourage victims of domestic violence to have the courage to come forward.
"They don't speak up because they're scared, but it's time to speak up," said Glenn.