Forensic expert aims for McLain decision Friday

Posted July 23, 2008, at 12 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 27, 2011, at 11:49 p.m.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine&nbsp- Renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden has nearly finished his review of the Joyce McLain case and hopes to have a decision by Friday on whether to pursue exhuming the body, he said Tuesday.

“I will have to speak to the family first,” Baden said, “but it is virtually completed.”

Baden is reviewing paperwork provided by Deputy Attorney General William R. Stokes to see whether examining the body for DNA evidence would help solve the 28-year-old homicide. He began his review late last month, amid handling other cases.

The victim’ s mother, Pamela McLain, said she looks forward to hearing from Baden.

“I know he’ s going to call me, so I wait for that,” McLain said Tuesday. “I know what I have to do next and I know the money is raised for him, so I don’ t worry about that. I am just resting and waiting to hear from him and I will know where I am heading from there.”

A grass-roots organization, The Justice For Joyce Committee, has raised more than $18,000 to pay Baden’ s expenses, which would be about $10,000, plus transportation of the remains to Baden’ s New York office, reinterment costs and legal fees, McLain has said.

McLain said she hopes Baden will proceed and that the continued effort to exhume the body would increase pressure on Maine State Police to maintain efforts to find her daughter’ s killer and on witnesses to come forward with new information.

Joyce McLain, a 16-year-old Schenck High School sophomore, was killed sometime around the night of Aug. 8, 1980. Her body was found two days later in a power line clearing about 200 feet from the school’ s soccer fields. Her head and neck had been struck repeatedly with a blunt object. Several suspects have been investigated, but no arrests have been made and the investigation remains open.

The chief forensic pathologist for the New York State Police and host of HBO’ s “Autopsy” series, Baden has been a medical examiner for 45 years. He has performed more than 20,000 autopsies and helped with congressional reinvestigations in the 1970s of the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Baden had said in April that he hoped to see from the data whether exhumation would be helpful but also expressed willingness to examine the body even if his initial opinion is negative.

If he decides otherwise, Baden would join Stokes and Maine’ s forensic pathologists, who declined to exhume the body last year because of doubts that useful DNA traces would be found. The state retains the best evidence — three tissue samples of inconclusive origin — taken from the body at autopsy, state officials said.

McLain said she hopes the killer might have left DNA traces in the wounds, and believes there is at least a chance the body has not degraded to the extent experts say. Even if it has, the family wants to do everything it can to ensure that all leads have been pursued as far as possible.

“I figured it would be soon,” McLain said of the decision.

nsambides@bangordailynews.net

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