Tuesday, March 11, 2014
SACO – An autopsy was completed Monday on the body of a woman who police said was badly beaten, but authorities still couldn't say exactly what happened to the woman.
State Police at the scene of what appears to be the beating of a homeless woman at the Sunrise Motel in Saco on Sunday. The woman, Elizabeth Williams, 55, of Portland, was found by the cleaning staff Saturday morning.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
Elizabeth Williams, 55, was found by the housekeeping staff Saturday in the bathtub of a room at the Sunrise Motel on Route 1. She died Sunday at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
The state Medical Examiner's Office plans additional tests Tuesday while detectives continue to analyze evidence.
Police have not classified Williams' death as a homicide. Such a determination must be made by the medical examiner.
"The Medical Examiner's Office and state police detectives are working together to find out what happened to this woman," said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.
Williams was a Portland resident with a history of substance abuse, which may have contributed to her chronic homelessness, occasional arrests for drinking in public or trespassing, and vulnerability.
"One of the things we know about homeless women is that life on the street is incredibly dangerous. Assaults are common, sex violence is common," said Bill Burns, coordinator of Preble Street's day shelter.
"There's not a lot of places where you actually can be safe if you're a homeless woman living on the street."
Residents at the Sunrise Motel said they were troubled and mystified by Williams' death.
Rod Dixon, who lives in the unit next door, said he was there when Williams and the man who rented the room arrived in a cab about 1 p.m. Friday.
Both were drunk and Williams fell after getting out of the cab, he said.
The man tried to open Dixon's door with the key to Number 19, then opened the adjacent unit, Dixon said.
He said he heard nothing unusual that night but was awakened about 5:30 a.m. by a noise that he described as a "thud."
He heard it a second time, then went back to sleep.
"It sounded like someone falling over furniture," he said.
When he woke up a little more than four hours later, police were swarming outside his door.
Tim Thibodeau, who lives in a nearby unit, said he thought he heard bickering Friday night, a man telling a woman to stop talking, but he couldn't be sure which unit it came from and he didn't hear any violence.
Julia Gayler, who works at the motel, said she and her mother were told by the manager to clean the room, and when they arrived the door was ajar.
The room was messy, with clothes on the floor, but no worse than many of the units they clean.
As they entered, they saw what appeared to be a pool of blood beneath the air conditioner, she said.
Her mother went into the bathroom and screamed.
Her mother told her there was a body in the bathtub, a woman who appeared badly beaten.
Her mother thought the woman was dead, but then called out that the woman was still alive.
Police and an ambulance were called, and Williams was taken to Maine Medical Center, where she died the next day.
Residents said the man who rented the room returned with a 12-pack of beer and stared at the scene of several police vehicles and officers, before authorities moved to interview him.
As Dixon and some friends in another unit described the weekend's events Monday, two police cars and an ambulance pulled up.
Police said one of the residents in the building where Williams was found had called because she was having health problems.
It was enough to make Dixon nervous. "I think it's time to move," he said.
Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: