Merrimac man arraigned in rape of woman, 74,

DAVE ROGERS/Staff photoWilliam Raia, 50, of Merrimac stands in front of a court officer at Newburyport District Court during Raia's arraignment Tuesday morning on multiple rape charges. 

MERRIMAC — A local man charged with raping and terrorizing a 74-year-old woman in her Hillside Avenue home for hours July 3 was ordered held without bail during his arraignment Tuesday in Newburyport District Court.

William Raia, 50, was arrested Monday night at his home at 5 Merrimac Ave. after an intense weeks-long investigation conducted by local and state police. 

In addition to four counts of aggravated rape, Raia was charged with home invasion, assault to rape, assault and battery on a person over 60 with serious injury, kidnapping and strangulation or suffocation. 

Raia is due back in court Friday for a dangerousness hearing to determine if he poses too great a risk to the woman to be afforded bail while awaiting trail.

The woman and members of her family were among those in the courtroom as Essex County prosecutor Kate MacDougall described how Raia broke into the woman's home about 9 p.m. on July 3 and went into her bedroom while holding a dagger.

She awoke to him strangling and beating her and realized he had a knife. Throughout the night, he stabbed her arms and the bed, the prosecutor said. 

Over the next two hours, he "raped her repeatedly," MacDougall said. 

The woman was able to grab a bottle of pepper spray and spray Raia but he wrestled it away from her, sprayed her back and continued to assault her.

Raia then dragged her into the kitchen. There, he grabbed a beer, drank it and threw the can outside. Raia then brought her back into the bedroom but the woman asked to be taken back to the kitchen so she could wash the pepper spray out of her eyes. 

It was back in the kitchen when the woman "took the opportunity to flee for her life," running to a neighbor's home to call police, MacDougall said.

Raia had fled by the time police arrived about 11:10 p.m. But officers were able to find the beer can and took it to a state police crime lab for analysis.

The woman was transported to Lawrence General Hospital, where she was treated and released. Evidence taken from the woman, along with DNA found on the beer can, matched Raia. They also found a cell phone that was traced to Raia, according to authorities.

With Raia in mind as a suspect, police investigators were able to collect a cigarette butt that Raia discarded. MacDougall said DNA from the cigarette butt, beer can and evidence taken from the victim all matched.

MacDougall told Judge Allen Swan that Raia needed to be held without bail while awaiting trial because there were no conditions that would ensure the woman's safety. Raia "told her he would be back," MacDougall said.

The Merrimac police report detailing the incident was impounded by Judge Peter Doyle shortly after Raia's arrest, according to court records. 

Following the arrest, Merrimac police Chief Eric Shears said the investigation remained active. 

"The entire team at the Merrimac Police Department worked diligently on this investigation since it was reported. I'm grateful for them as well as for the assistance of the Essex District Attorney's Office, the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab and the Essex State Police Detective Unit," Shears said. "I also appreciate the continued support and patience of our community as we worked to identify and arrest the suspect."

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