Daniel Valsecchi said he knew something did not look right.

He was driving through Bridgton before dawn Saturday when he noticed belongings scattered on the edge of Route 302, also called Portland Road, as if someone had dumped a purse onto the pavement.

“Then I saw someone’s feet,” he said.

He thought the person might have fallen in the fresh snow and, as he had done before for stranded motorists, he turned his car around to help.

This time when Valsecchi reached the spot, his headlights revealed a woman pinned to the ground by a man who was beating her. He leapt out of his car shouting as loud as he could, and the man got up and walked calmly toward a wooded area about 50 yards away, staring back at Valsecchi all the way.

“It happened so quick. He was on top of her and jumped off,” Valsecchi said. “When I saw the lady’s face, I knew immediately what was happening.”

Valsecchi’s act of compassion interrupted a brutal, apparently random attack that left 48-year-old Melissa Scammon seriously injured, with a broken arm and nose, and shattered cheekbone.

After a 45-minute search through the woods and nearby area, Bridgton police spotted a man jogging toward them on Portland Road who matched the description of the attacker. They arrested Jon Mitchell, 21, of Bridgton and charged him with aggravated assault. Police say that Mitchell had blood on his hands and clothes, and that he broke into one vehicle and tried to get into a second before he was taken into custody.

Scammon told police that she was walking to her job at Hannaford when she was blindsided by her attacker. She tried to fight him off and pepper-sprayed him, but he overpowered her.

By the time Valsecchi arrived, Scammon was bleeding badly. She thought her attacker was trying to kill her, a police report said.

Valsecchi convinced Scammon to let him take her somewhere safe and called police to report the attack.

“I said, ‘Lady, I’m here to help,'” the 32-year-old Lewiston resident said Monday. “She said, ‘I don’t know you, I don’t know you.’ I drove as fast as I could to the Hannaford parking lot.”

Mitchell was charged with one count of aggravated assault in the attack, and more charges could be forthcoming, a prosecutor said. During a brief court hearing via video on Monday, Mitchell held his head on his palm as Assistant District Attorney Nicole Albert described the attack.

At one point, Scammon told police, her attacker suffocated her with his arms and tried to strangle her. He got up off of her twice but returned each time to continue his assault. The last time, she said, he turned her facedown and simulated sex.

“I love you, I love you,” he said, according to the police report.

Mitchell is charged with a felony, meaning he must be indicted by a grand jury before he can enter a plea.

He has no criminal history in Maine, according to the State Bureau of Identification.

Benjamin Hutchinson, Mitchell’s attorney for the day, said his client was dismayed by the allegations against him. Hutchinson suggested that someone may have drugged Mitchell. The attorney said Mitchell has lived in Maine all his life and works as a roofer, and argued for $500 cash bail.

“This was clearly a disturbing incident, and Mr. Mitchell would agree with that,” Hutchinson said in the hearing. “He might have a good-faith involuntary intoxication defense, and that makes more sense to me.”

But Hutchinson provided no explanation of how Mitchell might have come to be intoxicated without his consent or what substance he might have consumed. Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren appointed another attorney, Randall Bates, to represent Mitchell in future proceedings, and suggested Bates would be equipped to explore the intoxication issue.

Warren ordered Mitchell held on $5,000 cash bail.

“The amount of damage is so great and the randomness is so scary, I can’t really do anything more at the moment than $5,000,” Warren said in response to Hutchinson’s bail request.

Bridgton police also sought charges for unlawful sexual contact and robbery, but the district attorney’s office declined to pursue those charges. It was not clear why. Officers found Scammon’s backpack, including the pepper spray she used, outside an auto parts business near the assault site.

Scammon was being treated at Maine Medical Center and is expected to undergo multiple surgeries to address the damage to her face and to reset her broken arm.

OUTPOURING OF HELP

A GoFundMe campaign to pay for her medical bills and expenses had raised more than $9,000 as of Monday. Its organizer, Heather Harmon, described Scammon on the site as a “very kindhearted, and caring person” who had served in the military. Valsecchi said he’s been in touch with Scammon’s family and that she’s expected to make a full recovery.

He said he was unnerved by the way Scammon’s attacker showed no emotion and said nothing as he retreated toward the woods.

“He kept on looking back, it was the creepiest thing,” Valsecchi said. “He was like stone cold.”

Kevin Benoit, Scammon’s fiancé, said in an interview Monday night that the flood of well-wishes and donations have been a comfort. He said the couple may use some of the money to buy a car so Scammon no longer has to walk to work.

Benoit hopes to meet Valsecchi as early as Tuesday night, when town officials and Bridgton police plan to publicly recognize Valsecchi’s good deed.

“It’s really affected the whole community,” Benoit said. “People feel bad for her but they’re scared that it happened in such a small town and they’re afraid that it could happen again. My fear is that I don’t want this to happen to another woman.”

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