April 2, 2013

Fugitive rapist returns to Mass. as 'surreal' story starts next chapter

Police recall being upset when Gary Irving disappeared, only to spend 34 years hiding in plain sight in Gorham.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Police who worked to arrest Gary Alan Irving were upset when a judge in Massachusetts allowed him to go home for a weekend before his sentencing for three rapes he committed in 1978, said a retired chief who was a patrolman at the time.

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Gary Irving, convicted rapist, leaves the Cumberland County Courthouse to get on the bus to head back to jail after his extradition hearing Monday morning.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Massachusetts State Troopers lead convicted rapist Gary Irving into the Norfolk District Courthouse in Dedham on Monday for his first court appearance in Massachusetts since his capture last week in Gorham, Maine.

Massachusetts State Police photo

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"It just didn't seem a good thing to do," said Brian Noonan, who retired as the police chief in Cohasset, Mass., in 2002.

But Irving, who was 18, hadn't jumped bail when he was on trial and the judge didn't consider him a flight risk after his conviction.

"He had a nice, innocent face," Noonan said. "Even today, the most recent picture, those eyes are exactly the same to me."

That look may have helped Irving dodge law enforcement for the next 34 years, as Gregg Irving of Gorham. Until his arrest last week at his home.

Irving, now 52, appeared Monday in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court in Portland, where he waived his right to fight extradition to Massachusetts.

Massachusetts state troopers took him from the Cumberland County Jail at 11:20 a.m. and transported him to the courthouse in Dedham, Mass., where he was convicted in 1979.

Irving indicated to Judge Kenneth Fishman that he plans to hire his own attorney, and the judge agreed to give him until April 12 to do so, said David Traub, spokesman for the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office.

When Irving appears in court on April 12, his attorney and the prosecutors will discuss scheduling his long-delayed sentencing, Traub said. Irving will be held without bail until then.

In 1979, he faced as much as life in prison.

Now, Irving is expected to face an additional charge of being a convicted felon in possession of guns. Troopers who searched his house after his arrest Wednesday say they found 10 guns, including two sawed-off shotguns. His attorney said Irving used one of the guns for hunting and inherited the rest from a family friend.

Noonan recalls investigators working long hours to solve the rapes, one of which occurred in Cohasset, a town of 7,000 people with 18 police officers.

A break came when two women in nearby Weymouth said a man had tried to solicit sex from them in his car. One grabbed a graduation tassel from the rearview mirror when she escaped.

The victim of the assault in Cohasset recalled seeing a tassel on the car's rearview mirror when she was attacked.

Police used the tassel to determine that the suspect graduated from Abington High School. When they showed the school's yearbook to their victim, she identified Irving.

"It was tremendous, to break the case, to do it that quick -- it was only a couple months," Noonan said. "It was very satisfying, but then to take it to trial and have the judge tell him to go home ... it was upsetting to the officers who did the investigation."

Irving's disappearance launched a frantic manhunt. "There was some initial panic searches all over where he lived and all around the state," Noonan said. "He just kind of faded away."

Noonan, who became police chief in 1993, said police knew that Irving had a Maine connection.

"There was something going around years earlier, when he took off, that he used to camp up in Maine, something like that. The authorities in that area -- I'm not positive if it was Gorham or not -- were notified and sent all the pictures and information. Nothing really turned up."

At the time Irving disappeared and settled into a new life in Maine, "it was pre-computer and all of that stuff," said Gorham Police Chief Ron Shepard.

"It's just one of those things," he said. "If you move into the community and you lay low, it's not that difficult, I guess."

By the time police found him, Irving was a mild-mannered grandfather who was baking a cake and watching TV when police arrived at his home at 151 South St.

"The person who lived in Gorham, Maine, that most people knew, he's loved by his family, loved by his friends," said his attorney Christopher Leddy. "He didn't live the life one might expect if the Massachusetts convictions are accurate. That would be a very strange thing both psychologically and sociologically."

Even Leddy seemed surprised that Irving had managed to avoid detection. 

"He wasn't a master sleuth," Leddy said. Irving had a job and paid taxes, and even sat for jury duty, although he wasn't chosen.

Irving's main concern in the past few days has been for his family, Leddy said. They had no idea about Irving's past and are still trying to cope, he said.

"I think you can only imagine the person they thought of as husband and father for 30-plus years is somebody else, and people have a completely different version ... it's surreal," Leddy said.

In Maine, Irving was a typical father, attending Gorham High School football games when his son played. He did the same job for a private telephone company for 20 years. He now has a 3-year-old granddaughter.

"She misses her grandfather very much," Leddy said. "I say those things with all due respect to what happened in Massachusetts. You have to understand, the story that is Maine's has to do with Gregg Irving."

Irving's wife and children attended Monday's hearing but have declined comment. They put up a no-trespassing sign in the front yard of their home.

A man who answered the telephone at National Telephone & Technology said nobody there would speak about Irving. 

Maine State Police Trooper Jeremy Forbes arrested Irving on Wednesday night. 

"He still denied he was Gary Irving. He said he was Gregory," said Forbes. "He actually made a statement in the police car that he had lived a carefree life and wanted to know how they found him at this point."

Maine State Police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will work to determine where the guns came from, Forbes said, and determine who modified the shotguns. The 10 weapons included the two modified shotguns and a handgun. 

Forbes said troopers also plan to begin working to develop a timeline of Irving's movements for the past 34 years.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Gary Irving will return to Massachusetts where he will face up to life in prison on three rape convictions and could face new charges of fleeing while out on bail.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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The Gorham house where Gary Alan Irving was arrested last week.

AP

 


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