EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 21, 2013

Woman describes early morning attack by alleged 'red car' rapist

By Jill Harmacinski
jharmacinski@eagletribune.com

---- — METHUEN - She was living on the third floor of a South Union Street boarding house in Lawrence on May 23, 2010. In the early morning, she said she went out to have a cigarette on the sidewalk were a man pulled up and asked her for directions. When she walked over to the car, the man ­— later identified as Kenneth Poirier ­— pointed a gun at her and told her to get in, she said.

“I was scared I was going to be dead; that he was going to shoot me right away,” said the woman, 42, breaking into tears on the witness stand in Lawrence Superior Court yesterday.

Poirier, 41, who previously lived in Merrimac and Pelham, N.H., is on trial for two counts of aggravated rape against the woman. Her name with being withheld by the Eagle-Tribune because she is the victim of an alleged rape. Poirier is accused of trapping the woman in the red Pontiac Grand Am he was driving and raping her. His defense, however, is that the sex was consensual.

The woman was supposed to report to court on Thursday but did not show up. Under questioning by Poirier’s defense attorney yesterday, the woman said she knew she was supposed to be in court but had a tooth ache and infection. Lawrence police located the woman on Thursday night and she was put up in a hotel, given food and some clothing prior to her court appearance yesterday, she said.

Questioned by prosecutor Kate MacDougall, the woman said she was forced at gunpoint to get into Poirier’s car, was driven to Methuen and told “to do stuff to him,” she said. The woman said Poirier drove her to a wooded area off Old Ferry Road in Methuen where he raped her twice.

“He starts getting rough and demanding, hurting me. I said, ‘I’ll do anything. Just keep calm,’ ” she said. MacDougall at one point asked her if she “had sex” with Poirier.

“I don’t call it sex because I didn’t want to have sex. He was raping me,” she said. She said Poirier eventually let her get out of the car to urinate. When she did, she “ran into the bushes. I just kept running until I saw a cop ... I saw a policeman and I ran to him.”

The woman saw Officer Neil Quinlan in a marked police cruiser parked at a red stop light. She flagged him down and told him “I just got raped,” she said.

John Morris, Poirier’s defense attorney, pointed to inconsistencies in the woman’s story, including that she told police Poirier’s car was red and white but in court described it as blue. Also, under Morris’ questioning, the woman said she couldn’t recall if she told police Poirier told her to get in his car at gunpoint.

“That’s an important point,” Morris said.

“I don’t remember,” the woman replied.

The woman also said she couldn’t recall what streets and direction Poirier drove from Lawrence to Methuen on. “I wasn’t paying attention to the road. I was paying attention to him,” she said.

Later, as Morris questioned the woman about what happened in the car, the woman became visibly emotional.

“He made me, forced me. He raped me. Why don’t you understand it was a rape,” she said. Judge Mary Ames immediately called for a 10 minute recess.

In her opening argument, MacDougall described the woman as “damaged,” both by her own choices and the world she lives in. When Poirier saw her that morning, “he saw a woman he could use and abuse ... humiliate and violate,” she said.

“He saw a woman no one would miss. He saw a woman no would believe,” she said. In the pitch black that night, Poirier forced the woman into his car and told her, ‘Do what you are told and you won’t get hurt,’” she said.

“Her goal was to survive. Her goal was to get out of there,” MacDougall said.

Morris, in his opening argument, said the woman voluntarily walked up to a stranger’s car in the middle of the night. And when this man told her to get in the car, “She doesn’t yell for help, doesn’t walk away, doesn’t runaway,” he said. “She gets into the car.”

Also, Morris said the woman claimed to be raped and beaten for several hours that morning. However, she had no marks, bruising or injuries. There is no physical evidence in the case, other than DNA taken from a cigarette Poirier tossed out the window on Old Ferry Road.

Held on $50,000 bail, Poirier was previously charged with four counts of aggravated rape, kidnapping and indecent assault and battery for allegedly raping two women. But two counts of aggravated rape as well as the kidnapping and indecent assault and battery charges are not being prosecuted. Poirier is only on trial for the alleged rape of one woman.

He’s been held in jail since last November, after DNA taken from a cigarette butt at the Methuen crime scene linked him to five additional rapes, including one when he was a teen. Poirier was not charged with any additional rapes due to the DNA hit, however.

He faces life in prison if convicted of aggravated rape.

The trial resumes Monday in Lawrence Superior Court.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.