By Jill Harmacinski firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — SALEM, Mass. — A Methuen man charged with trapping women in his car and raping them is back behind bars after DNA evidence linked him to five additional rape cases, including one when he was a teen.
DNA obtained from a cigarette butt found at one of the rape scenes links Kenneth Poirier, 40, to unsolved rapes in Methuen, Hampton, N.H. and a 1988 case “where the defendant could have been a juvenile,” said prosecutor Kate MacDougall in Salem Superior Court yesterday.
This summer, Poirier, formerly of Pelham, N.H., was released from Middleton Jail after a Superior Court judge ruled Methuen police had no legal basis to stop his car and arrest him in October 2010 on four counts of rape, kidnapping and indecent assault and battery. Prosecutors went back to court yesterday to fight for the case to go forward.
MacDougall argued the new DNA evidence gives the prosecution a “far more viable case” against Poirier. Judge John Lu agreed and had Poirier shackled and taken back to Middleton Jail where he is being held on $50,000 cash bail.
Poirier is currently charged with raping women on May 23 and Oct. 10, 2010 in Methuen and altering and possibly removing a handle on the passenger door of his red 1995 Pontiac Grand Am to hinder victims from fleeing the car. He has not been charged in the unsolved rapes that investigators have linked to him through the new DNA evidence.
Poirier was released from jail last August when Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley ruled Methuen police had no legal basis to stop his car and arrest him in October 2010. Feeley ruled the 2 a.m. traffic stop in a Methuen industrial park area was a “warrantless stop” and all observations, evidence seized and statements made by Poirier “must be suppressed.”
One of the rape victims identified Poirier from a booking photo taken after that arrest and because of Feeley’s decision, her identification was tossed from evidence.
On Oct. 7, 2010, Methuen police Officer Neil Quinlan, who was working the midnight shift, arrested Poirier after the red Grand Am drove past him on Old Ferry Street toward a dead-end part of the street. Quinlan was not familiar with the car, could not see the driver or any occupants or detect any traffic or motor vehicle violations, Feeley wrote in his decision.
Quinlan testified he stopped the car because of the time of night, no area businesses were open and the car registration came back to an elderly woman “outside” of Methuen. “Essentially, Quinlan wanted to know what the vehicle was doing in the area at that time of night,” Feeley wrote.
But, the judge wrote, “Quinlan did not come even close to articulating a possible crime having been committed, being committed, or about to be committed,” Feeley wrote.
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 her 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 just after midnight she’d 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 his car, the man the victim identified as Poirier allegedly threatened to shoot her with a small handgun he had in the center console of the car. He ordered her into the passenger seat and drove onto Pleasant Valley Street and down Old Ferry Street to an area with brush, trees and open space, she told police.
The man started kissing her, keeping one hand on the steering wheel and using the other to remove her clothes. The gun was stashed in the center console, the woman told a Methuen detective.
The woman said she was raped, slapped in the face, head, buttocks and upper body for the next three hours. She asked if she could get out of the car, urinate and get dressed. Once she got out, the woman ran into the woods and Poirier allegedly drove away. When she made it back to Pleasant Valley Street, she flagged down a police cruiser.
When charged with the rapes, police arrested Poirier in Merrimac, where his mother lives. The red Grand Am, which belonged to his mother, was also seized by police at that time.
Police also said Poirier was a “person of interest” in a third sexual assault from June 2010 but he was never charged in connection with it.
As a condition of his release in August, Poirier, formerly of 17 Gaudette Lane, Pelham, N.H. had been living with his brother in the Northside Condominiums in Haverhill.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.