A Massachusetts woman who was found dead Friday afternoon behind a rock on Short Sands Beach in York died from blunt force injury to the head, according to Maine State Police.

An autopsy conducted by the state medical examiner’s office Saturday on Rhonda Pattelena, 35, of Bedford, Massachusetts, revealed the cause of death, but no other details were released, including whether or not a weapon was used to inflict her fatal injuries.

Pattelena’s domestic partner, Jeffrey Buchannan, also of Bedford, a small town 20 miles northwest of Boston, has been charged with murder. He is being held without bail at the York County Jail and is scheduled to make his initial court appearance next week at York County Superior Court in Alfred.

Jeffrey Buchannan York County Sheriff’s Office

York police officers responded to the beach in the Cape Neddick portion of town just before 4 p.m. on Friday after receiving several 911 calls from people who reported a male assaulting a female behind a large rock on the beach.

Upon arrival, police detained Buchannan. Pattelena was already deceased.

State police were called to investigate, which happens in all homicides, except those in Portland and Bangor, whose police departments handle their own investigations. Buchannan was charged with murder several hours later. No other details were released and state police spokeswoman Shannon Moss said the case is still being investigated.

It wasn’t clear what Buchannan and Pattelena were doing in Maine or how long they had been here. The couple had a child together who was not present at the time of the assault, according to police.

Pattelena’s killing was the fourth homicide in Maine in 2021.

In February, Dulsie Varney, 48, and her husband, Troy Varney, 54, were killed in their home in Turner. Patrick Maher, 24, who was renting an apartment from the couple, has been charged with their murders.

And in January, Robert Dapolito, 55, shot and killed his longtime companion, Jessica Dapolito, 42, inside their New Sharon home. Robert Dapolito then took his own life.

Last year, there were 22 homicides in Maine, and that has been the state’s yearly average for the last decade. Roughly half of all homicides are related to domestic violence, although only six of last year’s total were classified as such.

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