DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — As Massachusetts fugitive Gary Irving started a new life, married and became a parent, a prosecutor said Thursday, none of the 16-year-old girls he raped in 1978 was ever able to do the same.

Instead, they lived haunted lives, with one sleeping with a knife under her pillow for years, breaking three wedding engagements and attempting suicide.

"He may have lived as a model citizen in name ... but what about our lives?" that woman said in a statement her niece read in court.

After hearing the testimony, Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman sentenced Irving to 36 to 40 years in prison, more than three decades after he went on the run and started his life over in Maine.

The bearded convict, wearing a plaid shirt, dark jeans and in shackles, exhaled deeply after hearing his sentence. His lawyer Neil Tassel said afterward that Irving has no recollection of the rapes and believes in his own innocence.

But the judge said in court, "This punishment is deserved. What was not deserved was the 34 years of freedom he enjoyed in the prime of his life while his three victims were deprived of closure, peace of mind, and safety that comes from the imposition of sentences immediately following conviction."

Irving was a teenager when he was found guilty of raping the three girls. But he fled from Rockland in 1979 after a now-deceased judge let him go home to get his personal affairs in order before sentencing.

When detectives from a State Police fugitive unit found Irving in March in Gorham, Maine, he was 52, had a wife and two grown children, and went by the name Gregg Irving. He had a job, was paying taxes, and attending high school football games. He once even served on a jury.

When police arrived to arrest him, he was baking a cake. Irving had been on Massachusetts' Top 10 Most Wanted list for decades.

Tassel said after Irving's recapture that people who know him in Maine were "astounded" by the rape convictions. The defendant's wife and other relatives were in court Thursday, but declined to comment.

According to Norfolk County Assistant District Attorney Michele Armour, Irving would get in his car in the summer of 1978 and cruise for young girls who were alone before threatening them at knifepoint and sexually assaulting them.

She alleged he attacked one girl who was walking by a cemetery on her way home. The prosecutor said he forced another victim off her bicycle before raping her and leaving her to ride home. Armour said that in another crime, Irving and another attacker forced a girl into his car before each of them raped her.

Police say the victims identified him from a yearbook photo or police photo arrays.

On Thursday, the judge sentenced Irving to two consecutive 18-to-20 year prison sentences on rape charges, along with a kidnapping sentence of 7-to-9 years that will run concurrently, and probation.

Irving's lawyer had asked the judge to consider his client's life since he fled and give him eight to 10 years in prison. Armour had asked for more prison time, including consecutive 40-to-50 year sentences for two of the rapes.

"I think it has given some sense of peace and justice to the victims," she later said of the Irving's sentence.