Monday, March 10, 2014
In the spring of 1977 in Rockland, Mass., 12-year-old Doris Dickson befriended her new next-door neighbor, a high school junior named Gary Irving.
Gary Alan Irving, top left, is seen shortly after his arrest in September 1978 on suspicion that he raped three teenage girls at knifepoint in Massachusetts. He lived with his parents and siblings at this home on Myrtle Street in Rockland, Mass., left, at the time. The 52-year-old Irving, top right, was arrested as a fugitive from justice late last month. Irving, who lived at this South Street home in Gorham, right, had gotten married and raised two children, eluding authorities for almost 34 years.
Left photo by Eric Russell/Staff Writer; top left, courtesy Cohasset Police Department; right photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer; top right, police photo
He was four years older than she, but the two connected over music and dancing. They spent most days after school in Irving's attic talking about life and relationships and listening to the sounds of KC and the Sunshine Band while a disco ball spun overhead.
By the following spring, though, Irving had changed. He became moody, easily agitated.
"I don't know what happened," said Dickson, now 48. "He just kind of snapped."
A few months later, her one-time friend was arrested on suspicion of raping three teenage girls at knifepoint in separate incidents. He was convicted the following June, but before he was sentenced, a judge released Irving into the custody of his parents for a few days. It was a courtesy to a frightened young man who hadn't been in any trouble before but now faced a lengthy prison sentence.
Irving never went to jail. Instead, he vanished.
For almost 34 years, he eluded police. He moved to Gorham, Maine, less than 150 miles from his hometown. He got married and had two children.
Police finally tracked down the fugitive on March 27.
Irving has been held without bail since his arrest. His long-awaited sentencing is set for May 23.
Neither Irving's family in Massachusetts nor his family here in Maine has responded to multiple requests to be interviewed for this story. Detectives in Massachusetts have shared few details about what they have learned about Irving's life.
However, numerous interviews with childhood friends, neighbors and classmates of Gary Irving, as well as those who knew him in Maine as Greg Irving, paint a picture not of a violent monster but of an introspective, musically gifted boy and, later, an unassuming family man.
Dickson, who hasn't seen or spoken to Irving in more than three decades but has thought about him often, said she doesn't know what's more remarkable: That the quiet boy she knew could inexplicably transform into a serial rapist or that he could seemingly transform back almost as quickly and go on to lead an unremarkable life.
Gary Alan Irving was born Aug. 28, 1960. He grew up on the South Shore, a cluster of seaside villages, working-class suburbs and industrial towns nestled between Boston and Cape Cod.
His father, Carl, was a Vietnam War veteran, a longtime officer in the Army and Air Force and an auxiliary police officer. His mother, Margaret, was a homemaker whom everyone called Peg. In 1964, the Irvings had a second son, Gregory.
The family lived in Rockland, a working-class town of about 15,000 residents, many of whom worked in shoe factories and bakeries that have long since shuttered. On Sundays, they attended the First Congregational Church, where Carl Irving served as a deacon for many years.
Gary Irving had heart surgery at age 12 -- a procedure that left two jagged scars on his chest and back but otherwise didn't disrupt his childhood.
John Albert, 49, was a classmate and friend of Gregory. He knew the Irving family well but has not stayed in touch.
"Carl and Peg, they were wonderful parents. So loving," said Albert, who now lives in North Carolina.
In 1977, when Gary was a junior, the family moved to Myrtle Street in Rockland, a street not far from the center of town that is lined with modest, two-story homes. The boys could walk to school from there.
Dickson remembers when the Irvings moved in. She was 12 at the time and lived next door.
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Friends and former classmates say it remains a mystery what turned “this socially awkward kid,” seen in a 1978 yearbook photo, into one of law enforcement’s most wanted.
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Gary Irving, who in 1979 was convicted of raping three teenage girls in Massachusetts, leaves the Cumberland County Courthouse on April 1.
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer