Boater accused of using ‘sexual restraint collar’ in rape on trawler

A 46-year-old Key West Harbor liveaboard boater was formally charged Wednesday with raping a woman and faces a possible sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Jeffrey Sundwall was arrested March 8 for the alleged March 6 crime in which he is accused of using a “sexual restraint collar” and mouth gag on the 27-year-old woman while aboard his 34-foot cabin trawler named Today. The boat was anchored in the harbor near Wisteria Island, an undeveloped island frequented by those without land-based homes.

In Wednesday’s charging document filed in Monroe County Circuit Court by Assistant State Attorney Colleen Dunne, Sundwall is accused of forcing himself sexually on the woman and “in the process thereof used or threatened to use a deadly weapon and/or used actual force likely to cause serious personal injury....”

“The criminal offense in this case, which a thorough review of the facts and evidence supports, is sexual battery with the use of physical force, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment for life,” Dunne said in a statement. An attempted homicide charge initially filed will not be pursued.

Sundwall has been in the Stock Island jail since his arrest with no bond allowed.

According to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the 27-year-old victim told Detective Rosa DiGiovanni that Sundwall invited her to his boat and while she was on it, he came up behind her and put a collar “around her neck and choked her with it until she was unconscious.”

She said she woke from unconsciousness to find him raping her. At one point, she says she was begging for her life and he told her if she struggled she would die.

According to a witness cited by police, Sundwall operates a water taxi service to and from Wisteria Island, formerly known as Christmas Tree Island. The witness said he called Sundwall for a ride to the island and when Sundwall arrived to pick him up, the victim was with him. She told the witness she’d been raped and asked to use his phone, and she used it to call the Key West Police Department for help.

When city police arrived, the victim and Sundwall were there. Sundwall possessed crack cocaine so he was arrested by city police for possession and tampering with evidence.

On Monday, the Sheriff’s Office also charged with him with misdemeanor abandonment of his boat.

In 2005, Sundwall served eight months in state prison for escaping from the Monroe County Detention Center stemming from an incident on Sept. 2 that year. That day, he had been been arrested for indecent exposure and resisting arrest.

In 2006, he was convicted in Key West of battery on a police officer, fleeing from police, theft, and possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia.

Larry Kahn: 305-440-3218