DEDHAM — A convicted rapist who eluded capture since the late 1970s was sentenced to up to four decades behind bars Thursday, after the longtime fugitive was seized from a secret life in Maine and brought to answer for his crimes.
Gary Alan Irving, convicted in 1979 of kidnapping and raping three young women, received two consecutive sentences of 18 to 20 years in state prison, a punishment that drew praise from prosecutors and victims’ relatives.
“The outcome could not have been better,” said the sister of one victim, who delivered an impact statement to the court. Asking to remain anonymous, she thanked investigators who in late March tracked down Irving in Maine, where he had been living a quiet family life under an assumed name. Irving disappeared after his conviction when a judge allowed him to return home before sentencing.
“It was a travesty of justice,” she said. “But they didn’t give up on her, and we’re very thankful for that.”
Now 52, Irving will not be eligible for parole for 24 years.
“We don’t think he’ll be getting out,” Michael Morrissey, the Norfolk district attorney, said from the courthouse steps.
Norfolk Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman, who handed down the sentence, said the punishment was deserved. While Irving’s lawyer, Neil Tassel, argued that Irving had shown himself to be a “considerate, gentle” individual in his adult life, Fishman said he was unconvinced.
“He did so, at least in part, to avoid discovery,” Fishman said. “He was and remains in my mind a dangerous individual.”
Irving showed little emotion as his sentence was delivered. But as relatives read their impact statements, he rubbed his eyes with clasped hands as he looked to the floor, sometimes slumping in his chair and shaking his head from side to side.
Outside the courthouse, Tassel called the sentence “extraordinarily long” and said he may appeal. He said the judge did not give enough credence to Irving’s life since the attacks, which he described as “productive and positive.”
Irving’s family attended the hearing, but declined to comment afterward. Tassel said Irving believes he is innocent and fled to avoid what he felt was a wrongful conviction.
“He has no recollection of ever assaulting anyone,” he said.
But prosecutor Michele Armour said Irving preyed on “young girls who were alone,” forcing them into his car at knifepoint and sexually assaulting “each and every one.”
“The defendant was on a criminal spree in the summer of 1978,” she said.
One of the young women Irving attacked noticed a graduation tassel on Irving’s car mirror, and victims later picked his picture out of a high school yearbook.
To this day, some victims still have nightmares and panic attacks and, after Irving’s escape, feared repercussions for their role in convicting him, Armour said. “They looked over their shoulder for 34 years.”
In three impact statements, victims described the lasting aftermath of the crimes against them. In words read by her niece, one victim said she still clenches her fist when she sleeps, and even in summer keeps her windows closed tight. In 1992 she attempted suicide and has struggled with relationships her entire life.
“I could never let anyone get close,” she wrote.
None of the three victims married or had children, prosecutors said.
The victim also wrote that she had done her best to live a good life and pleaded with the judge for justice.
The niece fought back tears as she recalled how the woman she described as her best friend would become “so terrified” as she struggled to get through the day. The rape “shattered her ability to trust,” the niece said.
In an audio statement, another victim told the court that “the memory of that day has never left me.” While Irving was able to flee his crimes for more than three decades, she was unable to escape the trauma he caused, she said.
“I would never look at another man with the same innocence,” she said.
Hearing the words, Irving buried his face in his hands.Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.