Presque Isle confirms Orlando Lt. as new police chief

Posted Feb. 22, 2011, at 7:13 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 22, 2011, at 8:53 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — City councilors Tuesday evening confirmed a Florida crime fighter as the new chief of the Presque Isle Police Department.

City Manager Jim Bennett said late Tuesday afternoon that Lt. Matthew Irwin of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Orlando, Fla., would be nominated to the position during a special meeting Tuesday evening. He was confirmed during the brief meeting.

Bennett said that Irwin was commander of the highly publicized Casey Anthony homicide case in Florida. He has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience, including 16 years of investigative experience.

Irwin will take over for former Chief Naldo Gagnon, who ended his 31-year tenure with the department three months ago. Gagnon resigned from the department to start a career as the chief deputy for the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. He said that he wanted to take the job to be closer to his two sons, who live in southern Maine.

Bennett pointed out that Irwin has an excellent reputation and a wealth of experience, which he said would benefit the city. He noted that a seven-person search committee had submitted three names to Bennett’s office for consideration, but also informed him that Irwin came out as their “strong No. 1 recommendation.”

“Lieutenant Irwin comes with an extensive law enforcement background from one of the nation’s highest-regarded agencies,” Bennett said. “His extensive career has included over 25 years of service. His service has included 16 years of investigative experience; several of those have included high-profile cases with national and worldwide interest.”

The manager said that colleagues, friends and employers have consistently pegged Irwin as a trustworthy, straightforward man of great integrity. He added that he has also been described as a “leader,” a “true professional” and “one of the top five most respected, liked and appreciated” officers among the 1,400 sworn officers in the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

As the commander on the Casey Anthony case, Irwin helped to secure an indictment against the now 24-year-old Orlando woman who was indicted in 2008 for first-degree murder in the death of her 2½-year-old daughter, Caylee.

Police grew suspicious after learning that Casey Anthony had not reported her daughter missing for more than a month. The child’s skeletal remains were found in December 2008. Casey Anthony is scheduled to go to trail in May.

Irwin also helped to resolve the 2005 case of the “Disney World girl,” involving a young girl who appeared in a series of sexually explicit pictures taken at a Walt Disney World hotel and other locations. The child had appeared in about 200 explicit photos that have circulated on the Internet for at least three years. Some of the photos released by police showed what appeared to be a hotel room, and tips suggested the room was at the Port Orleans Resort at Disney World. Police in the U.S. and Canada worked on the case together.

The girl’s former adoptive father eventually was sentenced to 15 years, eight months in prison for coercing the girl to appear in pornographic photos found on a computer diskette in his house.

Bennett said that the process to find a new chief was “extensive” and came about after work by a seven-person screening committee.

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