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Local woman describes ordeal after false kidnap allegation, ‘Scariest experience of my whole life’



Laste modified: Thursday, September 26, 2013
NORTHAMPTON — Megan Bonny said when police approached her on a July afternoon last year asking about a young girl from a residential treatment program, she assumed they were looking for help finding the girl, or that the girl was somehow in trouble. She said she was eager to offer help.

“One of the biggest things I hate in this world is when a child is hurt,” she said.

“I was willing to be a witness. I still had no idea they thought we did anything.”

Little did she know she was a suspect in a kidnapping and assault allegation that would wind up making her life a nightmare, from which, she said, she is still trying to recover.

Bonny, 27, and Lance Gouvan, 35, were charged in July 2012 with attempted murder, kidnapping and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (rope) and two counts of assault and battery in connection with an incident involving a 9-year-old girl.

In September of last year, a Hampshire County grand jury refused to indict the pair on the most serious charges, and the remaining assault and battery charges were dismissed by the Northwestern district attorney this month.

But for Bonny, the effects of her arrest, incarceration and the year she spent trying to clear her name, still linger.

She said she has lost any sense of trust in people and lives in fear of being picked up off the street for no reason and placed in custody.

“I used to trust I could walk along the sidewalk and go to the bus stop and not get arrested and randomly thrown in jail,” Bonny said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“If I see a police vehicle at the end of the road, I’m terrified,” she said. “I expect at every turn that some horrible thing will happen.”

Bonny said ever since her arrest, she lived in a state of terror, first while being jailed at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee, then during her three months of house arrest.

With the case now officially over, Bonny said getting her life back in order has been challenging.

“I have two options after what happened: Build a different life completely, or die,” she said.

Bonny said when news of the accusations first broke, she felt the charges against her and Gouvan were given more credence because they were characterized as homeless. In fact, she said, about two weeks prior to the incident, she had decided to stay with Gouvan at a campsite near Pomeroy Terrace.

She was working, she said, but she had trouble making a rent payment on her Northampton apartment one month and opted to stay with Gouvan to “see what his life was like for a little while.”

“I was working up until this happened,” she said. “I was contributing to society.”

Bonny said in addition to her job at Acme Surplus in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton, she had previously been married and also worked as a nanny and at a preschool.

“I was homeless for a maximum of two weeks, if you even want to count that as homeless,” she said. “I’ve worked my whole life.”

Case built

The child, a residential client at the Northampton Center for Children and Families on Pomeroy Terrace, told police that two people — whom she later identified as Bonny and Gouvan — approached her while she was in the field near the facility building while she was briefly unsupervised.

She told investigators Bonny and Gouvan grabbed her, threatened her with violence if she yelled for help, used her jump rope to tie her by her neck to a tree and left her there.

What really happened, Bonny said this week, was that she and Gouvan had walked through the field that day, saw a young girl off in the distance, but never approached her or spoke with her.

A short time later, she said, she and Gouvan were stopped on Main Street by police who asked if they had been near the field off Pomeroy — and if they could wait around to assist with their investigation.

Bonny, thinking something had happened to the child she had seen earlier asked, “Does this have to do with a girl?”

Now in hindsight she believes asking that question might have focused more suspicion on her and Gouvan. At the time, however, she said all she could think about was helping — she said she thought she would “stay here all day if I can be of any help.”

After about 45 minutes, she said, the girl and another potential witness were driven past them and she saw them both nod affirmatively.

She said she and Gouvan were immediately placed in handcuffs, placed under arrest and brought to the police station for booking.

“It was such a shock,” she said. “Everyone who knows me knew the story was garbage.”

She said she remembers Gouvan telling her, “Just pray, have faith, the truth will come out.”

“The only hope I had was truth,” Bonny said.

In the end, the last of the charges were dropped after DNA testing on the rope failed to link the pair to the girl’s claim.

Other parts of the child’s story were inconsistent, and didn’t provide any kind of motive for the alleged random attack, Bonny said.

Ordeal

Bonny said she will never forget the trauma of her arrest and incarceration. After her arraignment in court, she said, she was transferred to Chicopee, where she said technical difficulties prevented her from communicating with her parents and attorney and she wasn’t able to get immediate access to medications she had been taking for anxiety and depression.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I had no idea if I was there for good, if it was ever going to change.”

As the case proceeded, Bonny was released and placed on house arrest and stayed with her parents in Agawam for about three months.

“I mostly stayed in the basement,” she said. “I didn’t talk to many people.”

Bonny said she had flashbacks and bad dreams and still struggles with a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the accusation, arrest and its aftermath.

Bonny said she could leave the house for things like medical appointments, but she was reluctant to do so out of fear that the outing wouldn’t have been approved or some other technical problem or miscommunication would have found her in violation of her release conditions.

Bonny said she would love to find something positive as a result of the whole ordeal, but hasn’t been able to.

“The life I had before is gone and there’s no way I can have that back,” she said.

“Once everything you thought about the world is proven to be wrong, how do you move on?”

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.