April 28, 2013

A Maine man's life torn in two

Nearly 34 years ago, convicted serial rapist Gary Alan Irving ran from justice and pursued a seemingly ordinary existence in Maine. But did he – could he – escape the shadows of the crimes he left behind?

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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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

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Additional Photos Below

The victim was a 16-year-old girl. The suspect was a young man driving a green car and brandishing a knife.

He told one victim that he was being paid to attack women.

The rapes were savage and unsettling for the communities on the South Shore, according to Brian Noonan, who was a patrolman in Cohasset and later became the town's police chief.

In early September, when Gary Irving was supposed to be starting his first year of college, a young man tried to abduct two teenage girls in Weymouth.

The girls were able to resist. One of them gave police a partial license plate number, which was linked to Irving's father. The other provided something even more substantial: a blue-and-white graduation tassel.

The Cohasset rape victim had reported seeing a similar tassel hanging from the car's rearview mirror during the attack.

Police compared the colors to high schools in the area. Rockland High was a match.

Detective Sgt. Jack Rhodes from the Cohasset Police Department found a 1978 yearbook and sat down with one of the victims to go through the faces. She stopped when Irving's face appeared. That's him, she said.

The other victims also identified Irving from the yearbook photo. He never concealed his face during the attacks.

On Sept. 6, 1978, Rhodes and another officer went to Rockland to arrest Irving at his home.

He was charged with kidnapping, rape and committing unnatural acts, which under Massachusetts state law at the time meant either oral or anal sex.

When police took him in, the recent high school graduate said little. Police did ask at one point if they had the wrong guy. Irving just shook his head.

• • • • •

Several months after his arrest, in June 1979, Irving went on trial in Norfolk County Superior Court in Dedham. He had been released on bail since the arrest.

Louis Sabadini, the county prosecutor at the time, was successful in getting a judge to try Irving on all three rapes at the same time.

"He pulled these girls right off the street," said Sabadini, who has long since retired but still lives on the South Shore. "They were extremely brazen crimes."

The case was prosecuted before DNA analysis became standard practice in forensic investigations, which meant the prosecution often relied more heavily on the victims' testimony.

"It was much more difficult to prosecute that type of case then," Sabadini said.

The three victims did not know each other, but each identified Irving from his yearbook photo. Each described his vehicle.

Sabadini said he doesn't remember much about the defense but said it was built on a "mistaken identity premise."

Court documents contain no details about evidence against him at trial but do show that his attorney, Joseph Killion, filed motions to suppress photo identifications the victims made and to suppress statements Irving made to police after his arrest. Killion died two years ago.

After little deliberation, a jury convicted Irving on June 27, 1979.

He faced a lengthy prison sentence -- possibly even life -- but before that happened the judge did something unusual: He released Irving into his parents' custody for several days until sentencing -- despite Sabadini's strong objection.

"I argued that he should be held until sentencing," the former prosecutor said. "I told the judge, 'This kid isn't going to show up.' If it was me, I wouldn't."

At the time, the judge said he thought Irving would be secure in his parents' custody.

He was wrong. Irving disappeared that same day.

In a July 2005 story in the Quincy Patriot-Ledger newspaper, the judge, Robert Prince, then 86, was asked about his decision.

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Additional Photos

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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


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