A wanted Bay State three-time rapist — arrested Wednesday night in Maine after more than three decades on the lam — was a good neighbor and a grandfather, said the stunned man who lived next door to Gary Allen Irving for more than two decades.

“It came as quite a surprise,” Leroy Dixon said of Irving’s arrest. He was known in Maine as Gregg Irving, but “Al” to his friends. “I always felt he was basically what you would call a good person, and they were good neighbors, a good family.”

Irving, 52, was convicted of three rapes in Norfolk County in 1978, but fled when he was freed while awaiting sentencing. Reached by phone, another friend, Frederick Parsons of Winterport, Maine, expressed shock. “I can’t imagine it’s the person I’m thinking of,” Parsons said.

Dixon said his parents sold the 2½-story house on South Street in Gorham, Maine, to the parents of Bonnie Irving, the woman Irving married after fleeing Massachusetts, and the couple lived there, raising their children in the house during much of the past 30 years. Dixon questioned how hard authorities were looking for Irving. “I don’t call living at the same address for 30 years running,” he said.

There was no answer and calls were not returned from the Irving family home last night.

“I do not believe for one minute that [Irving’s wife] knew anything about this until this came up last night,” Dixon asserted. “I felt the Irvings were good neighbors. I felt we had a good relationship with Al and his wife and family.”

Distributed by MCT Information Services