People gather at a celebration of life for Rhonda Pattelena at York’s Short Sands Beach in April 2021. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

A Massachusetts man has pleaded guilty to killing his domestic partner on Short Sands Beach in York in 2021.

Jeffrey Buchannan, 36, entered the plea Wednesday morning, a clerk for the York Judicial Center confirmed. He pleaded just before attorneys were supposed to begin selecting a jury for his trial, which was scheduled to begin Monday.

Buchannan is scheduled to be sentenced on March 27, according to the Office of the Maine Attorney General, which declined to comment on the plea. Attorneys agreed during Wednesday’s plea hearing not to recommend a sentence beyond than 43 years.

Buchannan’s attorney Jon Gale did not respond to messages Wednesday afternoon asking about the hearing.

Jeffrey Buchannan York County Sheriff’s Office

Buchannan has been in jail for roughly three years. He was arrested on March 26, 2021, after police say he used a rock to beat Rhonda Pattelena, 35, to death on Short Sands Beach in York.

Police arrived at the scene after receiving multiple 911 calls from witnesses. Bystanders pointed out Buchannan to police, and an affidavit for his arrest said Buchannan was caught attacking Pattelena on surveillance footage from nearby businesses.


Buchannan entered an insanity plea in March 2022. He told officers when he was arrested that he had “blacked out” and could only remember a man running toward him before that, according to the affidavit.

Rhonda Pattelena Photo courtesy of Melissa Matranga

“When asked if he remembered anything, he advised that he first recalled breathing heavy and that Rhonda was laying on the ground,” the affidavit said. “He advised that he walked away at that point, leaving Rhonda behind.”

Pattelena was a mother to three, including two teenage boys, and shared a son with Buchannan who was 2 when Pattelena died.

She was a medical assistant and was studying to become a nurse. Friends said after her death that she was a great mother and a committed caregiver at work.

They also said Short Sands Beach was one of Pattelena’s favorite places to visit. They gathered there a week after her death to remember her and reclaim what they said was an important place for her.

“Jeffrey pleading guilty will never bring my friend back, and no amount of time in prison would be sufficient to make up for the suffering and pain his actions have caused all of us, especially Rhonda’s children,” her friend Melissa Matranga wrote in an email Wednesday. “The pain will always remain with us even after justice has been served.”


Matranga and her friends friends raised $53,000 to cover funeral costs, put up a memorial picnic table at the beach and provide for Pattelena’s children.

Buchannan’s trial for Pattelena’s death was put off several times. He completed a psychological evaluation twice and had a nearly four-hour settlement conference on Feb. 1. A judge afterward wrote that the “possibility of settlement is fair.”

A couple of weeks later, when it appeared that Buchannan was still intent on trial, his attorney asked in court filings for more time so he could have a third psychological evaluation. Gale wrote that he had spoke at length with a licensed clinical psychologist in Maine whom Buchannan’s family wanted to pay to conduct a new evaluation, but it couldn’t happen until April.

Gale said that the prosecutors didn’t object. He also stated that even though the case had been pending for three years, “the delay in getting to trial has never been at the request of Mr. Buchannan or the state.”

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