Maine man, fugitive for decades, sentenced to spend up to 40 years behind bars for raping three women in 1978 in Mass.

DEDHAM — A Maine man was sentenced today to two consecutive terms of 18 to 20 years behind bars, a punishment delayed for some 34 years because he fled Massachusetts after being convicted of kidnapping and raping three young women during the summer of 1978.

Gary Alan Irving was captured by Massachusetts State Police earlier this year in Maine where he was living as Gregg Irving, a quiet family man who worked at phone company and was both a doting father and grandfather.

Norfolk Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman imposed the sentence today under the law in effect at the time Irving was first charged with committing a series of sexual assaults in Cohasset, Weymouth, and Holbrook between July 2 and July 29, 1978.

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Fishman ordered Irving to serve 18 to 20 years for one conviction, followed by a second 18-to-20-year sentence that will start only after the first is completed.

“This punishment is deserved,’’ said Fishman, who was a prominent defense attorney before being appointed to the bench. “He was, and remains in my mind, a dangerous individual.’’

The judge also imposed what was formerly known as a “Walpole sentence,’’ which means Irving must serve an estimated 24 years behind bars before becoming eligible for parole, officials said.

Irving’s family was in the courtroom for the sentencing, but they declined to comment afterward.

Irving’s defense attorney, Neil Tassel, called it an “extraordinarily long sentence.’’

But one of Irving’s victims, who was then a teenager, said in a recorded victim impact statement that the incident is still fresh in her mind, though it took place some 34 years ago.

“The memory of that day has never left me,’’ the woman said in the audio recording.

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