Saturday, February 6, 2010

Formerly committed serial rapist almost strikes again - sentenced to at least 20 years

(Original Post 10-25-09)
A serial rapist, confined at a state mental hospital after convictions of five rapes in the 1970's, was arrested for trying to rape a jogger at a Massachusetts state park September 28. Fifty-one year old Scott Gagnon, of Tewksbury, will be arraigned in Salem Superior Court for attempted rape and indecent assault and battery. Gagnon faces life in prison for the new charges, and is being held without bond as a danger to women.

The indictments, which were expected, were handed up late Wednesday by an Essex County grand jury. They move the case out of Ipswich District Court. Prosecutor Gerald Shea said he expects Gagnon to be rearraigned in Salem Superior Court within the next several weeks.

Gagnon was arrested on Sept. 28 after a woman jogging at the Sandy Point State Reservation at the southern tip of Plum Island reported that she was grabbed from behind and thrown to the ground. The woman managed to escape her attacker's grasp and ran, flagging down two men, who then drove her to a security gate to report the incident. Gagnon was found in a truck a short time later.

Gagnon was released from Bridgewater State Hospital in 2007 after being committed there in 1980 for the 70's rapes. Experts pronounced him "cured" even though Gagnon admitted to 20 other rapes before institutionalization. Only a week before the rape attempt, Gagnon, along with 40 other men, was busted in a john sting held by Haverhill, MA police, and released after paying a $500 fine.

(Update 2-6-10) Gagnon was sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison for the rape attempt last fall by Judge John Lu. The sentencing took place Thursday, February 4, just after he took a plea deal on attempted rape and indecent assault and battery charges. Gangon will spend 20 years on probation and lifetime community supervision if he's released from prison. Ironically, Gagnon's minimum sentence is longer than it would have been if he was sentenced to life under Massachusetts law.

More details about that attempt are posted below. He can still be designated a sexually violent predator at the conclusion of his sentence.

Prosecutor Gerald Shea described to the judge the details of what happened on the afternoon of Sept. 28 at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, a seven-mile stretch of wilderness with hiking trails and beaches that stretches from Newbury to Ipswich.

The woman had gone to the southern end of the island, and was on the beach at the Sandy Point State Reservation in Ipswich when she first noticed Gagnon.

He stood out because of his attire, dressed more like a construction worker than a typical visitor to the refuge, Shea said. As he walked around, he was making her uncomfortable, Shea said. She realized that he was watching her.

So the woman went into a bathroom and changed into some running clothes, then started jogging on the wet sand. As she looked over her shoulder, she quickly realized that Gagnon was following behind her.

After a while Gagnon moved up toward the road and seemed to disappear. The woman kept running, about two miles, Shea said. Then, suddenly, Gagnon appeared again, trying to start a conversation. He asked her about the temperature of the water. She kept running.

Moments later, she felt someone come up fast behind her. Gagnon grabbed her around the chest and threw her to the ground. The woman screamed and resisted as waves of water broke over them. She was able to break away and began running. Gagnon ran, too, in the opposite direction.

A father and his daughter who were planning to spend the afternoon surfcasting on the island happened to drive by and the woman flagged them down, Shea said. That driver, Jeffrey Shaw, told police that the woman was "terrified." He called for help and drove her to the main gate of the refuge, where police were waiting.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife officer at the parking lot at the end of the island had spotted and detained Gagnon. Gagnon claimed he'd been jogging on the beach, and the woman was "in his way," so he "just grabbed her to move her out of his way."

Carol Cahill, Gagnon's atorney, said that "Mr. Gagnon, in all likelihood, is never going to be free again."

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