Dominican police investigating attack on US woman at resort

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic — Police in the Dominican Republic are investigating an attack on a U.S. tourist in Punta Cana that the woman recently made public on social media, detailing a vicious hours-long assault by a man she said was wearing the uniform of an all-inclusive resort.

Police spokesman Col. Frank Durán said that immediately after authorities heard of the January attack investigators went to the hospital where 51-year old Tammy Lawrence-Daley of Delaware was being treated, took her testimony and collected evidence from where she said the assault took place.

"There is a lot of conjecture about the case, a lot of information that doesn't match some of the statements," Durán said Friday. "We have to wait for the investigation to end."

The resort where Lawrence-Daley was staying, the Majestic Elegance Punta Cana, said in a statement it was cooperating with authorities and would not comment further out of respect for the "dignity and integrity" of Lawrence-Daley.

Lawrence-Daley posted this week on Facebook about the attack in the thriving Dominican tourist area of Punta Cana, showing grisly pictures of the damage done to her face. She said she had been vacationing with her husband and a couple of friends.

During the assault in a maintenance area of the beachfront resort, her mouth was ripped apart, requiring numerous stitches, she said. One tooth was knocked out and others were pushed out of position, she said. Her nose was broken in several places and she sustained an orbital fracture. There were teeth marks on her hip.

In a phone interview with The Associated Press, the mother of two teenage boys said she decided to go public with her story now to help other women and perhaps warn Caribbean tourists about what to expect from resort management in the wake of a similar attack on their properties.

Lawrence-Daley, an insurance company employee in Wilmington, said she arrived at the Majestic Elegance resort in January. On her second night there, she said she walked alone through a rotunda on the property at about 10:30 p.m. intending to take some pictures of the moon over the water and perhaps grab a snack. She was attacked from behind, her assailant starting to choke her before dragging her into a nearby maintenance room.

"The only opportunity I got to turn was when he was strangling me. And that's when I saw the uniform. And when I tried to look up I couldn't just because I was passing out at that point," she said in the phone interview.

She said any conscious moments that followed she was unable to make out the assailant's face because she had already been so savagely beaten that her eyes were swollen shut. But she's positive that her attacker was wearing a uniform with the resort's name embroidered on it. "He was definitely wearing a uniform of the resort," she said.

Even after a hospital stay in the Dominican Republic, Lawrence-Daley said she's still not positive if she was sexually assaulted.

"We had to force them to do a rape kit and that didn't happen until 48 hours later. And even at that point it was an external swab, that was it," she said.

Just as she was starting her long path toward a physical recovery, she said she was told that Dominican authorities would not investigate her assault unless she testified in a local court. She said she managed to testify at a court before flying back home.

But after a three-month investigation and a failed attempt to negotiate an out-of-court settlement, the resort's insurance company eventually sent a letter saying Majestic Elegance bore no responsibility since she couldn't identify her assailant as an employee. She now has until late July to find a Dominican lawyer to take up the case.

During her ordeal, her husband and friends went to the resort's front desk three times before security would agree to make even the most cursory search for her, she said, suggesting that she was drunk and sleeping it off somewhere.

She was eventually discovered in the basement of the maintenance room when she came to.

Relatively speaking, violent crime rarely affects vacationers in the Caribbean, where high violent crime rates typically impact locals and fragile economies are hugely dependent on tourism. But every year, a smattering of high-profile attacks on tourists sends ripples through the regional hospitality industry.

Regardless of what happens, she hopes her story can lead to some kind of positive change.

"If they install cameras that's at least one step closer to really helping people," she said.