A childhood friend of the Massachusetts woman whose body was found Friday afternoon on Short Sands Beach in York has raised more than $24,000 to help support the woman’s three children.

Rhonda Pattelena’s domestic partner, Jeffrey Buchannan, 33, of Bedford, Massachusetts, has been charged with murder in connection with her death.

Rhonda Pattelena Photo courtesy of Melissa Matranga

The GoFundMe fundraising campaign, which was created by Melissa Matranga of Reading, Massachusetts, had raised $24,457 as of Sunday night.

Matranga said the fundraiser in honor of the 35-year-old Pattelena, also of Bedford, will benefit her school-age 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 bench at Short Sands Beach if the town allows it.

Jeffrey Buchannan York County Sheriff’s Office

Shannon Moss, spokeswoman for the Maine State Police, said authorities detained Buchannan on Friday afternoon before charging him with Pattelena’s murder Friday night. The two had a 2-year-old child who was not present when the assault took place behind a large rock at Short Sands Beach.

Buchannan is being held at the York County Jail pending his first court appearance at York County Superior Court in Alfred this week. The date and time of his appearance were not available Sunday.

Moss said the chief medical examiner completed an autopsy on Pattelena’s body Saturday morning and determined that the manner of death was homicide caused by blunt force injury to the head. Police have not said yet what type of weapon or object was used.

Matranga said the town of York and its beaches were among Pattelena’s favorite places to visit. Her partner had never been to the beach so the couple took a day trip there on Friday.

Devastated by the loss of her friend, Matranga created the fundraising campaign on Saturday. And by Sunday evening the campaign had taken off.

“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.”

Pattelena was the mother of boys ages 17, 14, and 2. In an email Sunday night, Matranga said the boys will live with their grandmother.

Pattelena worked as as medical assistant and was studying to become a licensed practical nurse, according to Matranga, who works as a paralegal. Matranga said she is in the process of planning a candlelight vigil for her friend.

Caring Unlimited, a Sanford-based organization that provides support and safety planning services to victims of domestic abuse, posted a statement on its Facebook page this weekend.

“Our hearts are heavy as we read and hear the news stories covering the tragic murder of a woman in York. The loss of life because of domestic abuse and violence is so heartbreaking, and its impact is felt throughout our communities. Today, we are thinking of Rhonda’s family, friends and her community as well,” Caring Unlimited said.

Caring Unlimited offers a 24-hour helpline at 1-800-239-7298.

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