Sex offender charged in West Tisbury assault
A man with a history of violent sexual assault broke into a West Tisbury home and violently attacked and raped a 36-year-old woman early Monday morning, according to town and State Police.
Scott Donavan, 34, of Tisbury is scheduled to appear before Edgartown District Court Judge Donald Carpenter this morning, when he will have an opportunity to seek a reduction in the $1 million bail Edgartown District Court Magistrate Liza Williamson set at his Tuesday morning arraignment.
A bail review hearing by a judge of the bail set by a clerk magistrate is standard procedure. Ms. Williamson told The Times $1 million is the highest bail she has ever set. She said it was appropriate in light of what she called the totality of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Donavan and the attack of which he is accused.
A booking photo of Scott Donavan, now held in the Dukes County Jail. Courtesy Dukes County Jail
Police arrested Mr. Donavan Monday night following a daylong investigation and search that involved multiple Island police departments and State Police.
Mr. Donavan was arraigned on nine charges: breaking and entering a dwelling at night to commit a felony; assault to rape; armed assault in a dwelling (a firearm); assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a knife); assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a rock); kidnapping; aggravated rape; and larceny of a motor vehicle.
The case will ultimately be sent to Dukes County Superior Court where Mr. Donavan could face the possibility of life in prison based on the penalties associated with the charges.
On Tuesday, the victim spoke to a Times reporter briefly as she recovered from her ordeal at the home of a friend. Still shaken and anticipating the legal process, she was reluctant to answer specific questions about the incident or the attacker, but was grateful for the help she had received.
"I really appreciate the support everybody has been giving me," she said. "My family and friends have been so great, and the outpouring of support has been really great."
She said that although she expects that it will take time to get over the effects of the traumatic event, she knows, and she wants those who are concerned about her to know, that she will get beyond it.
"I'm going to be okay. I know I'm going to be okay," she said.
On an Island where personal security is often taken for granted, this week veteran law enforcement officials expressed shock at the brutal nature and viciousness of the crime.
According to a series of press releases issued by the West Tisbury Police department, court documents and conversations with those familiar with the case, the woman was at home asleep when Mr. Donavan broke into her home shortly before 5 am Monday morning. Although she was acquainted with Mr. Donavan, police believe there was no existing relationship.
The victim awakened to a man wearing a ski type mask and choking her, according to court documents. During a struggle, the mask came off. She was able to turn a light on and recognize her attacker as Mr. Donavan.
"He held an object to the back of her head and said that if she did not comply he would pull the trigger," according to the criminal complaint. The victim did see a knife in the man's hand and received cuts on her hand during a struggle.
The victim ran outside where the struggle continued. The attacker hit her in the head and face with a rock and forced her back into the house.
The victim was tied up and sexually assaulted. She was then made to go downstairs. The victim asked her attacker to allow her to seek medical attention, but according to the report he said, "not till I come to grips with this" and threatened to commit suicide.
The attacker took his victim back upstairs and tied her feet and hands to prevent her escape. He then left the house in the victim's vehicle. The woman was able to free herself and call police.
West Tisbury and state police were dispatched to the house at 4:55 am. The woman, who identified Mr. Donavan as her attacker, was transported to Martha's Vineyard Hospital by the Tri-Town ambulance service.
An Island-wide police bulletin was issued asking police to look for Mr. Donavan, described as a white male, five feet, nine inches, 125 pounds, clean-shaven with short brown hair, and his pickup truck and the victim's vehicle. According to a West Tisbury police press release, he was to be considered armed and extremely dangerous.
That morning state and Tisbury police went to Mr. Donavan's residence, a rented room at 118 Williams Street, but he was not there. Oak Bluffs police located the victim's vehicle at 7 am but there was no sign of Mr. Donavan. About 9:30 am his pickup truck was found in West Tisbury.
Search warrants were secured and state police searched his residence and the vehicles. A close watch was kept at boat terminals and the airport. At the same time a State Police crime team arrived from the mainland to process the victim's home and to examine the vehicles for evidence.
Police also began contacting people who might know Mr. Donavan, a self-styled computer technician who advertised low rates for in-home technical support and instruction. Using information acquired in their daylong investigation and provided by citizens, about 7 pm a team of State, Oak Bluffs, and West Tisbury police located Mr. Donavan in an apartment on Lake Street in Oak Bluffs he had entered without the permission of the owner.
According to State Police Sergeant Neal Maciel, Mr. Donavan was found in a bedroom in a semiconscious state and in need of medical attention. State Police troopers arrested Mr. Donavan and transported him to Martha's Vineyard Hospital under police guard. At approximately midnight West Tisbury Police transported him to the Dukes County Jail.
People convicted of a variety of sexual crimes are classified by the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB), which defines four classifications of sex offenders - level one, level two, level three, and sexually violent predator. Information about level one offenders is not available to the public.
Level two and level three offenders are differentiated according to the degree of danger they pose to the public and their likelihood of committing another offense. Those classified at level three are people with a high risk to reoffend. Level two is for individuals who are considered to pose a "moderate risk."
According to the SORB, Mr. Donavan is a level two sex offender. His classification dates to a 1998 conviction for aggravated rape.
According to published accounts in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, in May 1995 Mr. Donavan's former girlfriend accused him of rape. He was arraigned at Ware Superior Court on charges of aggravated rape, assault with the intent to murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a knife.
During the trial in March 1996, the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that the 23-year-old former University of Massachusetts student testified Mr. Donovan, a resident of Belchertown, "held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her if she tried to leave his room. Donovan also allegedly made the woman put the barrel of the rifle in her mouth so he could see what it would look like if he wanted to kill himself, she testified."
The defense at the time insisted that the sex was consensual. The trial ended in a mistrial stemming from the improper handling of evidence.
A retrial followed in June 1998 for Mr. Donavan, then a resident of Maryland. After deliberating for 21 hours over four days in Hampshire Superior Court, a jury of nine men and three women convicted Mr. Donavan of rape but found him innocent on two other charges, assault with a dangerous weapon and kidnapping, according to a report published on June 27, 1998.
A story published in the Union-News of Springfield on June 16, 1999, reported on a request from Mr. Donavan's lawyer that his client be placed on probation or have his sentence reduced.
According to the story, in June, 1998, Judge Wendie I. Gershengorn sentenced the 26-year-old Mr. Donavan to four to six years in prison for the May 1995 aggravated rape of his former fiancée in his 281 Franklin Street apartment in Belchertown.
According to the SORB web site, www.mass.gov/sorb, which was updated on Aug. 28, there are six level two and one level three offenders living in Edgartown, four level twos in Oak Bluffs, five level twos and one level three in Tisbury, one level two and one level three in West Tisbury, and one level two in Aquinnah. There are no registered sex offenders in Chilmark.