March 29, 2013

Rapist captured in Gorham after 35 years: 'How did you find me?'

A flight from justice ended Wednesday for a serial rapist who hid in plain sight for decades.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

GORHAM — When a jury in Massachusetts convicted 18-year-old Gary Alan Irving of raping three women in the summer of 1978, he faced life in prison.

Gary Irving

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Gary Allen Irving, who is now in his 50s, has been on the Massachusetts Top 10 Most Wanted list for decades.

The crimes were horrific: Irving knocked one woman off her bicycle, forced her to a secluded area and raped her repeatedly. He forced another woman into his car at knifepoint and assaulted her.

He was convicted of rape, kidnapping and unnatural acts, but the judge, in a gesture of leniency, gave him one last weekend as a free man, to say goodbye to his family and put his affairs in order before he was sentenced. Irving's father was an auxiliary police officer, so the judge reasoned that he was unlikely to flee.

Irving returned the judge's trust by disappearing for the next 34 years.

Until Wednesday night. That's when state troopers from Maine and Massachusetts knocked on the door of his modest two-story house in Gorham as he watched television with his wife.

As he was being arrested, police said, he asked the officers, "How did you find me?"

They didn't answer him. Nor have they released many details about what led them to one of Massachusetts' most-wanted fugitives after more than three decades of searching.

Irving, now 52, is due in court Friday on charges of being a fugitive from justice.

Maine State Police Lt. Walter Grzyb said police will use DNA analysis and other advances in forensic science to determine whether Irving could be a suspect in any unsolved crimes in Maine.

Police say it is unusual for a convicted serial rapist to make the leap to law-abiding citizen without lapsing back into crime along the way.

AN ORDINARY LIFE

Irving's lawyer, Christopher Leddy, said Thursday that Irving fled to Maine because he had camped here as a child and was fond of the state.

He changed his name only slightly, calling himself Gregg Irving, and proceeded to live like someone with nothing to hide.

He married Bonnie Messenger of Gorham just a few years after his conviction. They lived in her mother's house and eventually bought it. The house is listed in his wife's name.

They raised a son and a daughter. Irving attended his son's football games. He became a grandfather. He even registered to vote, in 1984.

Just last month, he and his son helped shovel snow at a neighbor's home after she came home from the hospital.

"That's what neighbors do," he reportedly said, though the woman, who would not give her name, said she rarely saw him.

For 20 years, Irving worked for National Telephone and Technology in Scarborough. He helped install wiring for businesses and municipal offices, including police stations, Leddy said.

The company's office was closed for much of Thursday, and phone calls to the business number went unanswered.

NEIGHBORS HAD NO SUSPICIONS

"They were just watching tv, doing what a typical family would be doing on a work night, getting ready for dinner," said Maine State Police Sgt. Robert Burke, who participated in the arrest. "It seemed like they were getting ready to put the grandchild to bed."

"His wife appeared like she was in a state of shock," knowing nothing about her husband's hidden, violent past, Burke said. "She seemed to be a very nice lady."

In the house, police found numerous guns, which Irving wasn't allowed to have as a convicted felon.

Neighbors near the house at 151 South St. say they didn't know Irving well, but could hardly believe he was the man who committed such heinous crimes.

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