A Maine judge on Tuesday ordered that a Massachusetts man accused of beating his girlfriend to death with a rock on a York beach undergo a psychological evaluation to determine if he is competent to assist in his own defense.
Jeffrey Buchannan, 33, is charged with intentional or knowing murder in the death of Rhonda Pattelena, 35, on Friday afternoon on Short Sands Beach.
Defense attorney Jon Gale of Portland suggested his client be evaluated, Superior Court Justice Wayne Douglas said in ordering the evaluation.
Douglas also ordered that Buchannan continue to be held without bail at the York County Jail.
The defendant made his first appearance remotely Tuesday from that facility.
Buchannan was not asked to enter a plea because he has not yet been indicted by the York County grand jury.
He is next due to appear in court for a status conference on April 12.
Buchannan was captured on nearby surveillance videos hitting a woman over the head with a rock, according to a court affidavit. Several people who dialed 911 shortly before 4 p.m. Friday reported seeing a Black man wearing a black hoodie and red sneakers striking a woman and dragging her body behind some rocks.
When interviewed by police, Buchannan allegedly claimed that he had “blacked out” and did not remember striking her with a rock.
Pattelena was found dead by members of the York Beach Fire Department, the court document said. They reported that she had suffered “significant trauma to the face and head” and blood was found on the sand under her head.
A rock near her body that may have been used as the murder weapon was collected as evidence, the affidavit said.
An autopsy performed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner showed that Pattelena died of blunt force trauma to the head, according to the Maine State Police.
If convicted, Buchannan faces between 25 years and life in prison.