By Jill Harmacinski
---- — METHUEN - In seconds, the victim said she went from having a cigarette outside of her Lawrence boarding house to wondering if she’d see the light of the next day.
At gunpoint on May 23, 2010, Kenneth Poirier, dubbed the “red car rapist,” ordered her to get in his red car. Then he drove the woman to a wooded area of Methuen and raped her. After several hours, Poirier let the victim out of the car to urinate. She ran from the area and flagged down a police officer at a stop light and told him she’d been raped.
“No woman who comes across this defendant will be safe ... That night my life was destroyed,” the victim told a Lawrence Superior Court judge yesterday.
Convicted of aggravated rape on Tuesday, Poirier, 42, was yesterday sentenced to no less than 16 years and no more than 25 years in state prison. He faced a maximum penalty of life in prison for the rape conviction.
During sentencing, Judge Mary Ames noted jurors convicted Poirier of aggravated rape, agreeing that he threatened the victim with a gun before raping her.
Ames said the victim was a “vulnerable woman” Poirier targeted in a “predatory fashion.”
Poirier’s criminal record indicates he was also charged with forcibly raping a female friend in a car in 1988, just six months away from his 17th birthday. In the 1990s, he was also arrested for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and assault and battery in the 1990s. In 1997, he and another man were charged with beating a woman “with a history of prostitution” after driving to the Old Ferry Road area of Methuen - the same place the May 2010 victim was raped, according to information Prosecutor Kate MacDougall provided the court yesterday.
DNA testing also linked Poirier to five rapes.
Police said Poirier trapped women in the red Pontiac Grand Am he drove. The car belonged to his mother.
His defense lawyer John Morris, who asked Ames to impose a 5 to 7 year state prison sentence, said an appeal will be filed in the case. MacDougall asked Ames to impose a minimum of 18 years in state prison for the rape conviction.
Poirier never formally addressed Ames at sentencing yesterday. When Morris asked him if he wanted to say anything to the judge, Poirier said “She believes her, not me.”
While he has relatives living locally, Poirier did not have any family or friends present in the courtroom yesterday. In the past, Poirier has worked installing vinyl siding, Morris said.
Poirier was given credit for 978 days he’s already served in jail. Ames also ordered him to register as sex offender
The victim praised Ames before leaving the courtroom yesterday. “Thank you for everything. God Bless you,” the woman said, as tears rolled down her face.
The victim has suffered from epilepsy and chronic leukemia during her life. Despite the obstacles, prior to the rape she was holding down a part-time job with benefits, was receiving housing assistance and was in a relationship. The terror and “dehumanizing nature” of the attack sent her into a downward spiral, MacDougall said.
“He destroyed me. He destroyed my entire life,” the woman said in an interview after the sentencing yesterday. “I can’t be normal. I can’t have a job or a boyfriend.”
If Poirier is ever released from prison, the woman said she fears he will hurt another woman. She praised MacDougall, Methuen police and the District Attorney’s office for supporting her for the past 3 1/2 years. “They worked very hard to get him and they did a good job,” she said.
“They helped me and supported me. They found me a safe place to stay and fed me. They are like my family,” the woman said.
She urged other victims not to be silent. “I would tell them to go to the police and put (their attackers) in jail. Nobody deserves to be hurt that way.”
“I would tell them not to be afraid and to go forward. If I can do it, they can do it,” the victim said.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.