EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

September 20, 2013

Opening arguments possible today in 'red car' rape trial

LAWRENCE — After two days of jury selection, the trial of a Pelham, N.H. man charged with trapping a woman in his red car and raping her is expected to start today in Lawrence Superior Court.

Kenneth Poirier, 41, who has been held on $50,000 bail, is on trial for two charges of aggravated rape involving one alleged victim.

Poirier was previously charged with four counts of aggravated rape, kidnapping and indecent assault and battery. But two counts of aggravated rape as well as the kidnapping and indecent assault and battery charges are not being prosecuted. Poirier is only being tried for allegedly raping one victim — not two women, as previously charged.

Jury selection was completed by noon yesterday. However, prosecutor Kate MacDougall told Judge Mary Ames the alleged rape victim, a primary witness in the case, did not show up at court yesterday.

She said the witness has been “totally cooperative” and asked for an additional day to locate her, which Ames allowed. Poirier’s defense attorney John Morris also did not object.

Opening arguments in the trial are expected this morning.

Poirier is charged with forcing a woman into his red, Pontiac Grand Am on May 23, 2010.

The woman, who’d been living in the Pleasant Valley Street area of Methuen, told police 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 escaped and flagged down a police cruiser after the assault.

Police said previously Poirier raped the women in a red, two-door Pontiac Grand Am that belonged to his mother. He’s accused of tampering with the door to prevent the alleged victims from fleeing the car.

Poirier’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 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.

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

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