After six months, McLain case pace angers mother

Posted Jan. 28, 2009, at 9:30 p.m.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — The mother of Joyce McLain will give state police a month to tell her what’s new with her daughter’s 28-year-old homicide investigation or she will push them to seek FBI help, she said Wednesday.

Speaking five months after her daughter’s body was exhumed, Pamela McLain vented frustration at seeing no investigative progress despite fresh evidence unearthed by forensic experts Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Henry Lee on Aug. 29. They were paid with $20,000 she and a citizens’ group helped raise.

“After six months, I am going to start being loud again,” McLain said Wednesday.

“I was OK for a while and I tried to get some answers for the public, but now I need answers for me, because I am starting to get the same feelings I had 28 years ago,” McLain said. “How long do I wait this time? I don’t have 28 years to wait.“If they [state police] don’t have anything, perhaps they should ask someone else to help them out. There is always the FBI to help them out,” she added. “I want to know if the state police are capable of solving unsolved murders. If they need help and can’t do it, then I think they should ask for more help.”

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said state police sought help several years ago from FBI profilers. He said he would speak today with detectives about the investigation’s status.

“The case is open and active and we continue to work on it,” McCausland said. “We have tried to keep her [McLain] in the loop as best we can.”

State police Detective Troy Gardner visited McLain on Monday, she and McCausland said. But he told her nothing, McLain said.

A 16-year-old Schenck High School sophomore, Joyce McLain was killed sometime around the night of Aug. 8, 1980, apparently while jogging. Her body was found two days later in a power line clearing near the school’s soccer fields. Her head and neck had been hit with a blunt object.

Several suspects have been investigated, but no arrests have been made. Never closed, the investigation appeared dormant for several years until the increasingly vocal McLain re-formed the Justice for Joyce Committee in 2007 and announced its intention to have the body exhumed for DNA examination.

State officials said it was unlikely new evidence would be found, but the body was exhumed from Medway’s Grindstone Road Cemetery on Aug. 28, and investigators were astonished to find an intact vault seal, vault and a metallic coffin that looked almost new.

Baden and Lee were equally surprised a day later that the body was in remarkably good shape. “Your God has done well by you,” Baden told Pamela McLain.

Baden, the chief forensic pathologist for New York State Police and host of HBO’s “Autopsy” series, was assisted in his investigation by Boston forensic neuropathologist Dr. Peter Cummings, a former Millinocket and Dover-Foxcroft resident who volunteered his services.

The doctors said new DNA and a great deal of other forensic evidence was recovered. Among the new evidence were letters left in the casket at McLain’s funeral, said Lee, who is known for his work on the O.J. Simpson murder case and his TruTV network series, “Trace Evidence: The Case Files of Dr. Henry Lee.”

The doctors cautioned that the evidence still must correspond with other case information to produce a suspect and probable cause for arrest — a formidable task, particularly in a 28-year-old crime.

As many as eight detectives visited town within two weeks and started following mountains of new and old leads and re-interviewing old witnesses and suspects. Some detectives went out of state, all with no visible results. McCausland cautioned that it might be months before results would be apparent, if ever.

“I expect to hear at some point that all 12 or 14 people [suspects] didn’t kill her, that they will do DNA comparisons,” McLain said. “I feel that will take time. I said six months ago that it would take a year.

“Dr. Baden told me he didn’t think it would take that long,” she added. “Someone from state police said that maybe he [Baden] should be the one doing it. That’s not nice, is it?”

Baden and Lee did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.

The case has drawn interest from People magazine, which interviewed and photographed McLain and Cummings last fall. That story will likely be published within a month, McLain said. She hoped that it would help create a break in the case.

“I am not too satisfied with them telling the mother nothing. And that’s the truth,” McLain said.

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