A National Guard officer said he remembers the night in 1984 when a woman says she was raped by the current commander of the Massachusetts National Guard, recalling that Joseph C. Carter got out of the car with the woman near a Florida beach, but returned alone.
Carter, who was placed on administrative leave Thursday by Governor Deval Patrick while the Army investigates the rape allegations, denies the attack and insists he has no recollection of Susan Pelletier, who accused him of raping her and agreed to let her name be used.
But Charles Mouris, who in 1984 was a captain and Carter’s superior in a military police unit, clearly remembered Pelletier becoming nauseated as the trio rode together in a car after an evening of socializing at a Florida restaurant. Mouris said Carter escorted a wobbly Pelletier from the car and returned alone sometime later, saying nothing about Pelletier.
“I said to Carter, ‘Are we all set?’ and he said, ‘Yes,’ ’’ said Mouris in an interview at his home. Mouris said he and Carter drove away, leaving Pelletier - who had been vomiting - behind, though Mouris pointed out that the restaurant where they had been socializing was only about a quarter-mile away.
Mouris said he was never questioned about the evening again until January of this year, when an Army investigator interviewed him about the event for approximately 40 minutes. Mouris declined to say what he told the investigator about the alleged rape, but said he answered all the investigator’s questions completely.
Pelletier, who was a 23-year-old secretary in the military police in 1984, has said that she was so traumatized by the assault that she deserted the National Guard for several months to avoid seeing Carter again.
“He raped and beat me and left me,’’ she said in an interview, recalling that other soldiers found her later that night, bruised and bloody, after Carter had left the scene.
The Massachusetts National Guard initially investigated Pelletier’s allegations in 1985, but the investigator, Mark P. Murray, recommended that Pelletier take the issue to civilian police because the penalties would be harsher. He apparently never interviewed Mouris.
Pelletier said she didn’t go to the police because she was “embarrassed and scared.’’ She said she was shocked when a woman from the Army’s criminal investigations division contacted her last November and asked her about the alleged attack.
“I don’t know what’s going on now,’’ she said. “I was contacted 27 years after the fact, wanting to know my story.’’
Pelletier’s allegations have at least temporarily derailed Carter’s hope for a promotion from one-star to two-star general and have prompted Patrick to temporarily suspend Carter from his duties at the helm of the 9,000-member Massachusetts National Guard.
On Friday, Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan said the governor may choose an interim replacement for Carter, who will still be paid during the Army investigation.
Several candidates were interviewed Friday, according to a National Guard source.
“The National Guard is a close-knit community and the allegations have an impact on all of us,’’ said National Guard spokesman Lieutenant Colonel James Sahady. “We have solid leadership and we have to move on and continue with our mission.’’
Pelletier’s allegations resurfaced in 2010 when Murray testified about them during a court-martial initiated against him by Carter. During the court-martial, Murray, who Carter had accused of a number of offenses, including misusing federal funds, brought up the alleged rape to suggest that Carter was biased against him because he had investigated the charges.
Guard lawyers strongly objected, saying that Murray had no proof. One called the charge “a completely unwarranted and offensive attack . . . It should not be allowed,’’ according to a transcript of the 2010 court-martial.
Murray was not convicted of any crime and he remains the Guard’s quartermaster, responsible for managing armories and state-owned properties.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story characterized Massachusetts National Guard Army Chief of Staff Francis Magurn as heading the Guard while Joseph C. Carter is on leave. Magurn, as chief of the joint staff, oversees the full-time support personnel of the National Guard and handles day-to-day operations until an interim commander is appointed.