Coastguardsman Charged in Beating of 67-Year-Old Montauk Woman

Matthew Patrick McGee, a petty officer third class with the Coast Guard, was led out of East Hampton Town Justice Court on Monday, accused of beating up a woman in Montauk. T.E. McMorrow

A coastguardsman stationed on Star Island in Montauk was arrested around midnight Saturday and charged by East Hampton Town police with beating a 67-year-old woman who had been sleeping in bed.

According to police, Petty Officer Third Class Matthew Patrick McGee, 22, entered a house on Essex Street through an unlocked slider door. He walked through the house until he came upon Margaret Burke, who was asleep at the time, police said, and began striking and biting her. Ms. Burke, who is known as Dee, fought back and managed to escape, according to the police. Petty Officer McGee does not know the victim, sources said. 

Mr. McGee then allegedly locked himself in the bedroom while Ms. Burke was calling police, who were soon on the scene. Police forced their way into the bedroom, where they placed Mr. McGee under arrest following a brief struggle. At police headquarters, Mr. McGee's bloodstained clothing was confiscated, and he was given a plastic jumpsuit. Ms. Burke was taken to the hospital, where she was treated for her injuries and released.

Petty Officer McGee was charged with burglary in the first degree, a felony, and with three misdemeanors: obstruction of breathing, assault, and resisting arrest.

While the charge of burglary is usually associated with a theft, under the law, it means that the defendant illegally entered a premises with the intent to commit a crime, in this case, a violent one.

Brian DeSesa of the Adam Miller Group, who represented Mr. McGee at his arraignment in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Monday, told Justice Lisa R. Rana that Mr. McGee has never been in trouble with the law before, and had joined the Coast Guard right out of high school. He has served for three and a half years. Justice Rana issued an order of protection for Ms. Burke. She told Mr. McGee that the district attorney had asked bail to be set at $50,000. Mr. DeSesa argued that Mr. McGee was not a flight risk, pointing out his service to his country and that his parents were in the courtroom. Also in the courtroom were three supporters of Ms. Burke.

Justice Rana set bail at $30,000 cash, or $60,000 bond. "I believe the district attorney's office is going to be acting on this swiftly," Justice Rana said.

Mr. DeSesa put Mr. McGee's parents in touch with a bail bondsman. As the parents spoke with the bondsman, Mr. McGee, still dressed in a plastic jumpsuit, was taken back to police headquarters.

"We are fully cooperating with town police," Senior Chief Petty Officer Eric Best of the Montauk Coast Guard Station said Monday. "We have to let this investigation take its course." He declined to comment further.

East Hampton Town police are asking that anyone with knowledge of the events leading up to the incident call them at 631-537-7575.

Correction: The victim's name is Margaret Burke, not Mary Burke as originally reported. Also, the incident occurred on Essex Street, not South Essex Street.