Merrimac man arraigned on rape of woman, 74, in her home  

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

MERRIMAC – The Merrimac man charged with raping and terrorizing a 74-year-old woman inside her Hillside Avenue home for hours on July 3 was ordered held without bail during his arraignment Tuesday morning in Newburyport District Court.

Police arrested the man, William Raia, 50, Monday at his 5 Merrimac Ave. home 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 on Friday to determine whether he poses too great a risk to his alleged victim to be afforded bail while awaiting trail.

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

When she woke up he began stabbing the bed around her and then her arms. Over the next two hours he "raped her repeatedly," MacDougall said. 

The woman was able to grab a bottle of pepper spray but he wrestled it away from her before she could disable him with it. Raia then dragged her into the kitchen. There he grabbed a beer, drank it and threw the can outside. 

A few minutes later the woman "took the opportunity to flee for her life," and ran to a neighbor's home to call police, MacDougall said in court.

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

The woman was taken to Lawrence General Hospital where she was treated and released. Authorities said they gathered evidence, including DNA on the beer can, that matched Raia.

With Raia in mind as a suspect, police investigators were able to collect a cigarette butt that Raia had discarded. MacDougall said DNA from the cigarette butt matched the other evidence.

MacDougall told Judge Allen Swan that Raia needed to be held in custody while awaiting trial, adding that there are no conditions that can ensure the victim's safety. MacDougall said Raia "told her he would be back."

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 into the night of July 3 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," he said.

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