BANGOR, Maine — A neighbor of the man accused of brutally beating a pregnant woman who was staying with him said she opened her Essex Street apartment’s front door early Monday and saw Josh Cole attempting to strangle the woman in the hallway while chanting about the devil.
Donna Lewis, who lives with Josh Boudreau and a child in an apartment across the hall from Cole, keeps a baseball bat by the front door.
“I picked it up and opened the door and [Cole] was right there strangling her,” Lewis said on Tuesday, pointing to the landing outside of their apartment. “I said, ‘Let her go.’”
Cole, 34, did not appear to hear her, she said.
“He was sitting there chanting. His eyes were black,” Lewis said. “I said, ‘Let her go’ again and something snapped and he went for my face and knocked my glasses off.”
Lewis said she then “took that bat and swung it down and hit him on the back two times.” Cole, she added, then grabbed her by the neck and slammed her against a door in the hallway.
Boudreau heard the commotion and entered the hallway to find Lewis and Cole fighting over the bat.
“All I could say was, ‘Grab the bat,’” Lewis said. Boudreau was able to prevent Cole from further injuring her, and pulled her into the apartment. Lewis remembers closing the door with her feet.
It was about 2:15 a.m. Lewis called 911.
After closing the door, the couple says they heard a loud bang and the woman, who had been screaming, stopped making noise. They also heard Cole resume chanting over and over the Spanish words “el diablo” — the devil.
Boudreau and Lewis opened the door again, deciding they had to do something.
“My Josh had the bat and we saw him just [standing there kicking the woman repeatedly] in the face,” Lewis said, as she started to cry.
“It looked like he was possessed,” Boudreau said. “It was evil and dark. It’s like something you would see on TV. That is what his look was like. Something was wrong with his brain. Something happened. Something triggered something and it went off.”
The woman, 41, was so badly injured that she was transferred from Eastern Maine Medical Center to Massachusetts General hospital in Boston. Three surgical operations were performed on her, according to police. The Bangor Daily News is not naming her because she is believed to be the victim of a crime.
Police had been to the Essex Street residence just before midnight to deal with a disturbance in the street outside and talked to Cole, but left when they found no complainant, Bangor police Sgt. Tim Cotton said Tuesday.
The pregnant woman woke up Lewis about 1:45 a.m. by knocking on her back door, thinking it was Cole’s back door. She was wearing only a nightdress and socks.
She was crying but told Lewis that she was OK.
“She said, ‘I’m just confused and Josh is not answering the door,” Lewis recalled. “I said, ‘If you’re upset don’t go back.’ She said, ‘I’m fine. I just need a cigarette. I’ll be fine if I can get into the apartment.’
“I heard her knock on the door,” Lewis continued. “I heard it unlock and I heard her say, ‘Please Josh don’t hurt me.’”
That is when Lewis heard the fight begin and grabbed the bat. She said later she wished she had never let the woman return to Cole’s apartment.
“I saw it in her eyes,” Lewis said.
Cole was arrested by police, who used a Taser to subdue him. He was charged with elevated aggravated assault on a pregnant person, which is a Class A crime that carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison. He also faces charges of Class B aggravated assault and simple assault stemming from his encounter with Lewis and Boudreau.
Cole remained at Penobscot County Jail and is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Wednesday, a jail official said.