, Salem, MA

September 26, 2013

Man facing kidnap, attempted murder charges


---- — SALEM — A Lynn man is being held without bail, charged with repeatedly trying to strangle and smother his girlfriend over the course of five hours Tuesday night, during which he would not let her leave the apartment, officials say.

William Townsend Jr., 51, who was arrested just outside the back door of the woman’s apartment after police heard “rustling” sounds, pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted murder and charges of kidnapping, assault and battery, and witness intimidation during his arraignment in Salem District Court, where a prosecutor said additional charges may be filed.

Police are continuing to investigate whether the woman was also sexually assaulted, according to a police report.

His attorney said his client denies the allegations and, in court, questioned the woman’s credibility, noting that she initially claimed she had not been assaulted.

Police were called to Prince Street shortly before midnight for a report of a possible fight.

They were eventually directed to a third-floor apartment, where they encountered a woman with two large reddish-brown marks, and several red scratches, on her neck.

The woman initially told police that the noise from her apartment came from a dog chasing her cat around inside. But with the encouragement of a neighbor who had called police, she eventually said she’d been assaulted repeatedly by Townsend, prosecutor Lynsey Legier told the judge.

The woman told police the reddish-brown marks were “hickeys” and that Townsend, when he saw them, became enraged, calling her names and beating her over the next five hours.

The woman said that at least six times, Townsend put his hands around her throat or tried to smother her with a pillow.

He also prevented her from leaving the apartment or calling for help, Legier told the judge.

Police also noted in their report that the woman told officers she was forced into sexual activity with Townsend.

However, because she was intoxicated at the time, police are conducting an additional investigation into that allegation.

The woman acknowledged that she’d consumed a 40-ounce bottle of beer and took Seroquel, a prescription mood stabilizer.

Legier asked the judge to hold Townsend without bail as a danger to the woman or the public.

Defense lawyer Benjamin Wittwer argued that the evidence in the case is questionable, citing the woman’s apparent level of intoxication and the inconsistent accounts she gave police.

He urged Judge Robert Brennan to deny the request by prosecutors to hold Townsend in custody in light of the questions about the woman’s credibility.

But Brennan said he would not be able to make any decisions about credibility without hearing from them and said that based on the police report, there was cause to hold Townsend at least until a full hearing.

That hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.