EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 6, 2013

Methuen 'red car' rape trial to start in 2 weeks

Defense attorney may seek to have two victims' cases tried separately

By Jill Harmacinski
jharmacinski@eagletribune.com

---- — SALEM, Mass. — A man charged with trapping two women in a car and raping them in Methuen is going on trial for at least one of the rapes in two weeks.

Kenneth Poirier, 41, of Pelham, N.H., is accused of raping the women in the red car he was driving on May 23, 2010 and in another incident on Oct. 10 of the same year.

In court yesterday, attorneys involved in the case said they are ready for Poirier’s scheduled trial on Sept. 18. However, defense attorney John Morris said he may file a motion to have Poirier’s cases tried separately; one trial for each victim.

Prosecutor Kate MacDougall also said she will be ready for trial on Sept.18 in at least one of the rape cases.

Both attorneys met before Judge Timothy Feeley. Poirier, who remains held in jail on $50,000, did not appear in court yesterday.

Poirier faces four counts of aggravated rape and single counts of kidnapping and indecent assault and battery.

Police said Poirier raped the women in a red, two-door 1995 Pontiac Grand Am that belonged to his mother. They said he tampered with the passenger-side door handle to prevent the victims from fleeing the car.

He’s been held in jail since last November, after DNA taken from a cigarette butt at one of the Methuen crime scenes linked him to five additional rape cases, including one when he was a teen. Poirier has not yet been charged with the additional rapes.

Last month, MacDougall said she obtained additional confirmation the DNA taken from the cigarette butt was Poirier’s.

The reports on the DNA evidence testing have not been made public.

Poirier faces life in prison if convicted on the rape and kidnapping charges. Indecent assault and battery carries a sentence of 21/2 years in the county jail or up to five years in state prison.

The woman who said she was raped on Oct. 10 said she was walking on Howe Street at 5 a.m. when she was forced into a car, driven to a secluded area near the Haverhill line and sexually assaulted. The woman told police there was no handle on the passenger’s door of the car but that she struggled with Poirier and escaped.

After Poirier was charged with rape and was arraigned in Lawrence District Court, another woman came forward, telling police Poirier had forced her into his car and sexually attacked her on May 23, 2010. The woman, who lives in the Pleasant Valley Street area, said that just after midnight she had stepped outside her apartment to get some air. A man in a red and white car stopped and asked her for directions.

When she approached the car, Poirier allegedly threatened to shoot her and ordered her to get into the passenger seat. She said she was driven to Old Ferry Street to an area with brush and trees and sexually assaulted. She also escaped and flagged down a police cruiser after the assault.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski under the screenname EagleTribJill.