EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 20, 2013

New DNA report links suspect to rapes

By Jill Harmacinski

---- — SALEM, Mass. — A month before trial, a prosecutor yesterday said she’s obtained additional confirmation that DNA taken from a cigarette butt found at a Methuen rape scene is that of Kenneth Poirier.

Poirier, 41, of Pelham, stands accused of trapping two women in a car he was driving and raping them, one on May 23, 2010, and the other on Oct. 10 that year.

He has been held in jail on $50,000 bail since last November, when DNA taken from the cigarette butt linked him to five additional rape cases, including one when he was a teen. Poirier has not yet been charged with the additional rapes.

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

His trial is scheduled for Sept. 18. During a court appearance yesterday, prosecutor Kate MacDougall said she had recently received an additional report confirming the DNA evidence. Both MacDougall and John Morris, Poirier’s defense attorney, will examine the report prior to a final scheduled conference before trial on Sept. 5.

Morris declined to comment on the new DNA report or Poirier’s defense strategy for the upcoming trial.

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 2 1/2 years in the county jail or up to five years in state prison.

Last August, Poirier, formerly of Methuen, 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.

Three months later, in November 2012, prosecutors went back to court and fought for the case to go forward.

MacDougall Revealed the DNA link then, noting the new evidence created “a far more viable case.” Judge John Lu agreed and set bail at $50,000. Poirier was immediately shackled and taken into custody by court officers.

In the August decision that freed Poirier temporarily, Judge Timothy Feeley ruled Methuen police had no legal basis to stop Poirier’s car and arrest him in October 2010. Feeley ruled the 2 a.m. traffic stop in a Methuen industrial park was a “warrantless stop” and that all observations by police and statements by Poirier, along with any evidence seized, “must be suppressed.”

One of the rape victims had identified Poirier from a booking photo taken after that arrest. Due to Feeley’s decision, her identification was tossed from evidence.

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 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 his car. He ordered her into the passenger seat and drove on to Pleasant Valley Street and down Old Ferry Street to an area with brush, trees and open space, she told police.

Poirier kept one hand on the steering wheel and used the other to remove her clothes. The gun was stashed in the center console, the woman told police.

The woman said she was raped, slapped in the face and hit on her head, buttocks and upper body for the next three hours. She asked if she could get out of the car to get dressed. Once she got out, she ran into the woods and Poirier drove away, police said. When she made it back to Pleasant Valley Street, she flagged down a police cruiser.

As a condition of his release last August, Poirier, formerly of 17 Gaudette Lane, Pelham, went to live with his brother at the Northside Condominiums in Haverhill.

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