Haverhill man pleads guilty to harassing estranged wife; still facing rape charges

Joseph Gagnon, 53, of 672 Main St. was placed on nine months probation after pleading guilty to violating a restraining order. 2/6/2020

HAVERHILL — A Haverhill man has been sentenced to nine months probation after pleading guilty to several charges of violating an abuse prevention order a judge had granted to his estranged wife.

He is still facing charges of raping a woman with an intellectual disability.

Police said the man sent more than 300 harassing text messages to his estranged wife, questioning her about her visitors and her whereabouts and that he also called her on the phone on two other occasions, which police said were additional violations of the order.

During a bench trial held on Feb. 5 in Haverhill District Court, Joseph Gagnon, 53, of 672 Main St. pleaded guilty to three instances of violating a restraining order and was sentenced by Judge Jean Curran to nine months probation. Curran also ordered him to stay away from his estranged wife, abide by a 209A abuse prevention order, and stay away from 177 Liberty St., his former address.

In March of 2017, Gagnon was charged with raping a mentally disabled woman, police said.

Police said Gagnon raped the woman, who was in her late 30s at the time, while she was in the care of him and his now-estranged wife at their 177 Liberty St. home. They received money from the state to care for her in their home, police said.

Police said the victim was placed in Gagnon's home at the time by an adult foster care agency. When she was a child, she was removed from the home of her biological family due to neglect and abuse, according to a police report.

Police said Gagnon coerced the victim into sexual encounters by telling her that he loved her and hated his wife. He threatened to have the victim removed from his home if she told anyone about what they were doing, police said.

Gagnon was indicted by a grand jury in May of 2017 on charges of rape and his case is currently still pending in Salem Superior Court. His next court date is Feb. 14 for status.

On Nov. 19, 2018, Gagnon's estranged wife notified police that over a several month period, Gagnon had sent her more than 300 annoying text messages asking her questions such as who was visiting her, who owned the vehicles that were parked in front of her home and that he also accused her of having an extramarital affair.

The woman told police that Gagnon also left messages for her at local establishments that she frequented.

The woman subsequently applied for a restraining order against Gagnon, which she was granted on March 4, 2019, according to police. Hours after the restraining order was served to Gagnon, Gagnon texted the woman, asking about the order. Police said the text message was a violation of that order.

On Aug. 28, 2019, police were notified by the woman that Gagnon had tried calling her on the phone, but that it was a missed call. Again, police said the phone call was in violation of the restraining order against Gagnon that was still active.

In 2009, Gagnon was charged with inappropriately touching a teenage girl at a Groveland tanning salon. According to court reports, he asked the girl to remove her shirt so he could apply lotion to her back and on another occasion, he asked her to remove her shirt while he removed his own clothing, touched himself and touched the girl inappropriately.

In that case, under a plea agreement approved by a judge, Gagnon pleaded guilty to assault and battery and received a one-year jail sentence that was suspended for 18 months.

As a condition of probation, Gagnon was ordered to stay away from the victim.

Staff reporters Julie Manganis and Jill Harmacinski contributed to this report.

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