Brittany Irish feared for her life on the night of July 16.

Days earlier, Anthony Lord had abducted her from her Bangor residence, drove her to a cabin in Aroostook County and raped her multiple times, she said.

He eventually let her go, she said, but only after she promised not to go to police.

Irish didn’t keep that promise.

She first told Bangor police, who referred her to Maine State Police, who said they would investigate. Then after a suspicious fire broke out at a barn adjacent to her parents’ home in Benedicta on July 16, she said she again told state police that she was afraid of Lord and what he might do.

Irish said she asked state police to station an officer at the house, fearing that Lord would show up looking for her. State police told her they didn’t have the resources to do that, she said.

Hours later, early on July 17, Lord showed up at her parents’ house armed with a gun.

He first shot at Irish, she said, hitting her in the arm. He then shot her boyfriend, Kyle Hewitt, multiple times. Hewitt later died. Lord abducted Irish – for the second time in less than a week – kicking off an 18-hour manhunt that would leave another man dead and four others injured.

Irish recounted the events Wednesday during an emotional news conference outside her parents’ house.

“He shot Kyle right in front of me,” she said through tears. “I didn’t have a chance to say anything or stop it from happening.”

STATE POLICE TO REVIEW RESPONSE

Although the Press Herald usually does not name victims of sexual assault, the 21-year-old woman said she wants people to know what led to Lord’s rampage, and she blames him and the state police.

“They are not willing to tell the truth to anybody,” she said of police. “They’re trying to bury it like nothing happened, like this wasn’t their fault.”

State police Col. Robert Williams issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, several hours after Irish spoke to the media, acknowledging that police were investigating Irish’s assault allegations.

“State police wish to express sympathy and condolences to all of the victims of the events last week in Benedicta, Silver Ridge and Lee,” the statement said. “Brittany Irish and all of the victims and their families have been through a very traumatic event. State police last week were investigating a sexual assault incident where Brittany was the victim. In the aftermath of many major incidents, state police typically conduct a review of our response and we will do so in this case.

“This is a double homicide prosecution now in the court system. As with any active homicide investigation, it would not be appropriate to discuss additional details at this time.”

Bangor police spokesman Sgt. Tim Cotton, speaking Wednesday morning before Irish’s news conference, said he couldn’t comment on the case or whether his department was investigating her claims.

State police spokesman Stephen McCausland said Irish’s claims of sexual assault were now part of the homicide case against Lord, and that he could not comment.

Lord’s attorney, Hunter J. Tzovarras of Bangor, said he had limited information about Irish’s allegations.

“What I know from my client is that they were involved in a consensual relationship at some point in the past,” Tzovarras said.

Lord made his initial appearance Monday via videoconference from Aroostook County Superior Court. A bail hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday was continued indefinitely, Tzovarras said.

After Lord shot and killed Hewitt and wounded Irish’s mother, Kim Irish, police say Lord fled, taking Brittany Irish as a hostage and kicking off a massive manhunt that involved multiple law enforcement agencies.

At one point, he led police on a high-speed chase and exchanged gunfire with a police officer in East Millinocket. Lord later pulled into a woodlot in Lee and shot at two men who inquired about Irish’s injuries. One of them, Kevin Tozier, 58, died. The other, Clayton McCarthy, was injured but survived.

Lord then took McCarthy’s pulp truck and drove back north toward Aroostook County. He eventually ditched that truck and stole a pickup that he drove to an uncle’s house in Houlton, where he surrendered. Irish said he sexually assaulted her one more time before surrendering to police.

CHILD’S DEATH, RAPE REPORT PROBED

Irish said Wednesday that she first met Lord, 35, four years ago through a friend. She said he made her uncomfortable and she eventually sought and received a protection from abuse order against him in 2011 after learning about his extensive criminal history, which includes convictions for unlawful sexual contact and assault. Because of the sex crime conviction, Lord is a lifetime registrant on the state’s sex offender registry.

Despite the protection from abuse order, Irish and Lord reconnected recently after she had a miscarriage and he lost a 6-month-old son, Irish’s parents said this week. The death of Lord’s son is being investigated by state police, who investigate the deaths of all children under age 3.

Before last week, Irish had not reported any interactions with Lord to police, she said.

On July 14, though, she said she went to Bangor police to tell them that he had abducted her recently and raped her. Bangor police referred her to the state police, she said, who told her they interviewed Lord the next day and that they would investigate the case further. It’s not clear whether the interview with Lord was conducted in person or by phone.

Kristen Houser, vice president of communications for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, was not familiar with the Maine case, but said sexual assaults that escalate to homicide are extremely rare.

She wouldn’t comment on whether police acted appropriately or not in order to address Irish’s fears, but said they generally should be relied on to use their best judgment.

“Certainly if (Lord) did kidnap this woman, that sounds like a credible threat to the public, but I don’t know that police didn’t take steps to protect this victim,” Houser said.

Destie Hohman Sprague, associate director of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Abuse, said sexual assault cases are extremely difficult to investigate and prosecute. Often, she said, there is no physical evidence and no witnesses other than the victim and perpetrator.

Still, Hohman Sprague said the onus should never be on a victim to ensure his or her own safety.

“We should all have a right to live our lives free from violence and from being a target,” she said.

Irish contends that police should have known Lord was capable of violence given his lengthy criminal history.

“He’s gotten out so many times,” she said. “They let him off easy and look what he does. How many more things does he have to do before someone realized he needs to be put away?”

Irish wishes police had taken her fears more seriously.

If they had, she said, she would still have a boyfriend and her two young children would still have a father.

 


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