A Key West liveaboard boater was jailed Wednesday after police said he kidnapped, raped and tried to strangle a 27-year-old woman he invited to his boat Sunday night.
Jeffrey Sundwall, 46, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, kidnapping and sexual assault with a weapon or force on a victim 12 years old or older.
Sundwall lives on a 34-foot cabin trawler named Today in Key West Harbor near Christmas Tree Island.
The woman told police she was invited to the boat, which Sundwall uses as a water taxi to and from Christmas Tree Island, also known as Wisteria Island and a haven for people who live on boats and the homeless.
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Once on the boat, though, Sundwall came up behind her and put a “sexual restraint collar” around her neck and choked her with it until she lost consciousness, according to Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Becky Herrin.
“She said she woke from unconsciousness to find him raping her,” Herrin said. “She said he put a gag in her mouth so she could not make noise. She said he held her for hours and continued to torture her. At one point, she says she was begging for her life and he told her if she struggled she would die.”
A witness told the Sheriff’s Office that Sundwall runs the water taxi service and he had called Sundwall for a ride to the island Monday morning, Herrin said.
“When Sundwall arrived to pick him up, the victim was with him,” Herrin said. “She told the witness she’d been raped and asked to use his phone. She used the phone to call the Key West Police Department for help.”
When Key West police arrived, both the victim and Sundwall were there. Sundwall allegedly possessed crack cocaine so he was arrested by and booked for possession of the illegal drug.
The Sheriff’s Office has jurisdiction over the harbor so detectives from that agency’s Major Crimes Unit responded. Their investigation produced a warrant for Sundwall’s arrest Wednesday. Sundwall, who was still in jail, is at Stock Island Detention Center without bond, per the warrant.
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen