METHUEN — A former Pelham, N.H., man charged with trapping women in his car and raping them was released from Middleton Jail yesterday after a Superior Court judge ruled police had no legal basis to stop his car and arrest him in October 2010.
Kenneth Poirier, 40, was charged with raping women on May 23 and Oct. 10, 2010 in Methuen. He was accused of altering and possibly removing the handle on the passenger’s side door of his red 1995 Pontiac Grand Am, hindering the alleged victims from fleeing the car, police said.
He was charged with four counts of rape, kidnapping and indecent assault and battery. As a condition of his release yesterday, Poirier, formerly of 17 Gaudette Lane, Pelham, will now be living with his brother at 440 North Ave., Haverhill. He was also ordered to stay away from the alleged rape victims.
When a reporter went looking for Poirier at Northside Condominiums in Haverhill last night, a man who answered the door at the unit where he was supposed to be staying said he hadn’t heard from his brother.“Please leave and don’t come back,” the man said when advised of the court order that stipulated Kenneth Poirier was to live there as a condition of his release.
Yesterday, Judge Timothy Feeley ruled a Oct. 7, 2010 traffic stop at 2 a.m. in a Methuen industrial park area was a “warrantless stop” and all observations, evidence seized and statements made by Poirier “must be suppressed.” Police had “no legitimate basis” to stop the car, which was registered to Poirier’s mother, or question him or an unidentified woman who was with him, Feeley wrote in his decision.
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.
Police arrested Poirier that morning at Pleasant Valley and Old Ferry Street, an industrial park area where Poirier is accused of raping one of the victims five months earlier.
He allegedly committed another rape three days after the arrest, according to court papers.
Poirier’s defense attorney, Lynette Leos, who filed the motion to suppress, said Feeley’s ruling “may compromise the Commonwealth’s case.” Poirier has spent nearly two years behind bars awaiting trial, she said. “We are anxious to go to trial and get this resolved,” Leos said.
Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon said the department will continue to work with the district attorney’s office to review the judge’s decision and determine if there is further information that can be provided for the court to review.
Officer Neil Quinlan, who was working the midnight shift, arrested Poirier on Oct. 7. At a court hearing, Quinlan said the red Grand Am drove past him on Old Ferry Street toward a dead-end part of the street. He was not familiar with the car, could not see the driver or any occupants or detect any traffic or motor vehicle violations, Feeley wrote.
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.
However, “Quinlan did not come even close to articulating a possible crime having been committed, being committed, or about to be committed,” Feeley wrote. “Quinlan may have wondered what the vehicle was doing in the area, but absent articulable suspicion that it has been, is, or is about to be involved in criminal activity, he had no legitimate basis to stop the vehicle and make inquiry of its occupants.”
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.
But when she approached his car, the man, allegedly Poirier, 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.
Poirier is due back in court next month for a status conference.
Staff reporter Julie Manganis contributed to this story.
Follow reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.