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Maine man arrested as rapist who fled Mass.

Gary Irvingo was convicted of rape in Massachusetts ando had been on the run for 34 years.

Cumberland County Sheriff's Office/AP

Gary Irving was convicted of rape in Massachusetts and had been on the run for 34 years.

GORHAM, Maine — When police finally tracked him down after a 34-year manhunt, Gary Alan Irving, a convicted rapist and the longest-standing name on the Massachusetts State
Police Most Wanted list, was about to put his granddaughter to bed in the suburban Maine home he shares with his wife.

In 1979, Irving was convicted of kidnapping and raping three young women in Norfolk County. Freed by a judge until his sentencing, he fled Massachusetts, and for decades lived as someone else entirely: Gregg Irving, a quiet family man with a job at a phone company, a swing set in his backyard, and neighbors who described him as a good guy who plowed their driveways when it snowed.

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When Massachusetts State Police found him Wednesday in his home in Gorham, a suburb just west of Portland, Irving at first insisted that they had the wrong man. But the scar on his chest from a childhood surgery gave him away, State Police spokesman David Procopio said Thursday. Officers arrested
Irving as a fugitive from justice and confiscated two shotguns, six rifles, and a handgun.

“He was surprised to see law enforcement on his front door steps,” said Maine State Police Sergeant Robert Burke, who assisted with the arrest along with Gorham police. “He just asked, ‘How did you find me?’ ”

Louis Sabadini, who was the Norfolk County prosecutor who handled his case more than three decades ago, said in an interview that Irving would drive around looking for teenage girls and young women to sexually assault, and then go ahead of them to lay in wait in the bushes, often armed with a knife.

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“When they came by, he’d pounce on them, pull them into the woods, and rape them,” said Sabadini, now retired. One of Irving’s victims was just 16 years old, according to police documents.

News of Irving’s arrest shocked his neighbors, who were used to seeing him flipping burgers in his backyard or making small talk about yard work.

“It actually kind of freaks me out because I never shut my shades . . . and my room is right there,” said Alyssa Lurvey, 18, as she pointed to her bedroom window, which faces the Irving home. “We don’t lock our door. I don’t know what I would do if he decided to walk in one day, come up to my room. That’s really, really scary.”

Lurvey said that when her family moved in, the Irvings brought over cookies as a housewarming gift, but since then had kept to themselves. She said Irving lived at the home with his wife, a young man, a young woman, and a baby. Neighbors said the Irvings have a son and daughter in their 20s.

Leroy Dixon, 76, who lives next door to Irving, said that he had known Irving’s wife since she was a little girl, and that Irving was a good neighbor. He barbecues in the summer, said Dixon, and the two men often talked in their yards.

“This is just not a highly exciting neighborhood,” Dixon said. “To me it’s just a very ordinary American neighborhood.”

No one answered the door at Irving’s house on Thursday.

Now that police have found Irving, they are going through open rape cases in Gorham and across Maine to see whether there are any that are similar to Irving’s attacks, said Gorham police Lieutenant Christopher Sanborn. Officials in Massachusetts said they are working to contact Irving’s victims.

Sabadini said he does not recall many details of the trial, but added that he was certain that all three victims took the stand and testified against Irving. Between July 2 and July 29, 1978, Irving raped the women in Cohasset, Weymouth, and Holbrook. One of his victims noticed a blue and white graduation tassel on his car’s rearview mirror, and Cohasset police used the detail to locate Irving, who was a Rockland High School graduate.

Sabadini said he likely would have recommended that Irving serve 10 to 15 years under what was then known as a Walpole sentence; he would have had to serve at least two-thirds of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

But he was never sentenced. Superior Court Judge Robert S. Prince allowed Irving to go home and get his affairs in order before his sentencing — and Irving vanished.

Prince, who died in 2010, told the Quincy Patriot-Ledger in 2005 that he had been new to the bench, and expected Irving to keep his word when he allowed him to remain free on bail.

On Thursday, Sabadini recalled asking Prince to revoke Irving’s bail because he feared that the then-18-year-old would flee.

He said he told Prince, “If you leave him out on bail now, it will just be an inducement to run.” The former prosecutor paused and then said, “and that’s what happened. He took off.”

Gorham police said that they had had no contact with Irving except for one incident in 2006, when his wife’s credit card was stolen. Records indicate that he had been living at the sky-blue house on South Street since at least 2002, town officials said, but he could have been there since the early 1980s.

Officials did not release any information about what tipped them off to Irving’s whereabouts. Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said that over the years, with help from authorities in Cohasset and other local agencies, State Police had followed leads across New England as well as Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Colorado and Florida.

“At the end of the day, good old-fashioned police work solved the problem,” Morrissey said.

Irving is set to be arraigned at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland on Friday, and rendition proceedings will begin to bring him back to Massachusetts, said Procopio. Irving will also face federal charges for possessing guns, he said.

Morrissey said his office is still looking over the paperwork on Irving’s case, but that the DA will seek “a substantial penalty.”

He recounted something a trooper once said to a suspect caught after fleeing: ‘‘We’re the Massachusetts State Police, and we always get our man.’’

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com. John R. Ellement can be reached at ­ellement@globe.com.

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