McLain case draws People magazine

Posted Oct. 14, 2008, at 9:45 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6 a.m.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — People magazine will be doing a story on Pamela McLain’s 28-year quest for justice for her slain daughter, Joyce, and on a former neighborhood boy who became a forensic neuropathologist to help solve the case, she said Tuesday.

The latest national publication or TV show to feature the McLain case, People will have a reporter in town Wednesday to interview McLain, she said Tuesday.

“They have already talked to Dr. [Peter] Cummings,” McLain said Tuesday. “I think it’s very good. That magazine gets all over the place.”

Cummings, 37, said in late August that he was a 9-year-old boy living in neighboring Millinocket when the body of Joyce McLain, a 16-year-old Schenck High School sophomore, was found bludgeoned to death near the school’s soccer field in East Millinocket on Aug. 10, 1980.

That case — and a fascination during childhood with the TV show “Quincy” — motivated him to get into forensics and to volunteer to assist Dr. Michael Baden, a nonfictional Quincy, with the exhumation and re-autopsy of McLain’s body on Aug. 29 and 30.

“They are coming up here to get more of the story,” McLain said. “It’s really about her case and him and me. That’s what they are focusing on. Dr. Cummings could have done the story himself, but he’s pretty low-keyed.”

A spokeswoman for People reached in New York City on Tuesday afternoon could not immediately confirm the magazine’s interest in the story. She said that the magazine’s editors sometimes like to wait until stories are reported by their own people before discussing their interest.

Pamela McLain’s is a story of perseverance against formidable odds. She began pushing for an exhumation of her daughter’s body for DNA testing more than a year ago. Citing the improbability of finding any new evidence, state officials initially had declined the request.

But the victim’s mother persisted, and with the help of the Justice for Joyce Committee raised $20,000 to pay the expenses of Baden and Dr. Henry Lee, like Baden an internationally renowned forensic expert who has been featured on numerous TV shows. The state shared facilities and information.

Baden and Lee found that the body was in remarkably good shape and said new evidence was recovered, but they cautioned that the evidence still must correspond with other case information to produce a suspect and probable cause for arrest — a formidable task.

Since the exhumation, state police investigators have been working on the case, said Stephen McCausland, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman.

“They continue to work on the case both in the field and at the crime lab,” McCausland said Tuesday, “including some trips out of state. I’m not going to get too much into the details, but some of these people being interviewed in Maine and elsewhere are people that we’ve spoken to before or new names that have come up.

“A lot of work has been done,” McCausland added, “and a lot remains.”

He urged anyone with information to call 800-432-7381.

For McLain, the initial elation at the success of the fundraising and the autopsy’s extremely unlikely discovery of new evidence have given way since August to a tension and melancholy much like what she endured 28 years ago.

“I have some pretty antsy days here. I don’t get out as much as I used to because of it,” she said. “I have to wait again for results from the detectives. This part of it is harder on me than any other part of it ever was. The exhumation and the reburial — that was hard, but this is really hard on me.

“I know that DNA testing takes a long time. I’m surprised how it is affecting me. I hadn’t gave it that much thought,” she added. “I had fought for so many years to get her exhumed and DNA-tested and I didn’t think past that. Now I have to wait it out the same as it did before. It’s new hope, but it’s hope and I am waiting again.”

McLain wishes state police would give her periodic updates, but said she has heard nothing from them since the exhumation. She doesn’t want to know sensitive details of the case. She often gets asked by people who made donations to the exhumation effort how the case is going and hasn’t anything new to tell them.

“Just to be able to say that I heard from state police recently would be fine,” McLain said.

State police said during a press conference with Baden and Lee that it was unlikely that they would disclose what the autopsy revealed unless an arrest is made.

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