EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — More than 1,200 people signed an Internet petition within 24 hours of its creation that calls for the FBI to take from state officials control of the investigation into the 1980 unsolved homicide of Joyce McLain.
As of 9:30 a.m. Thursday, 1,362 people had “signed” the petition at SignOn.org, which the victim’s mother, Pamela McLain, said had been created Wednesday by a friend. By 2:15 p.m., the petition carried 1,645 signatures.
“I am not surprised by the responses,” McLain said Thursday. “People support Joyce now just as they have through 32 years.”
Written by Judy Turcotte, the petition calls for Maine Attorney General William Schneider “to release the case files of the unsolved murder of Joyce M. McLain in order for the FBI to investigate this almost 32-year-old cold case.”
“The Maine State Police have remained silent and the attorney general appears reluctant to release the case files of this decades old unsolved murder,” Turcotte said in the petition. “The time for the FBI to become involved in this case is long overdue. Their investigation could uncover new or overlooked evidence that could lead to a conviction and closure of this case. Please help make that happen by signing this petition.”
Brenda Kielty, Schneider’s spokeswoman, referred comment to Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland, who said the FBI will not take over the case as petitioners seek.
Nor will Schneider open the case file to the McLains, as Pamela McLain seeks, McCausland said.
“We welcome any outside involvement and would have turned to the FBI if we thought their assistance could be helpful in the case,” McCausland said.
“We are also sympathetic with the family and with those in the Millinocket community who are frustrated with the time that has elapsed with this case, but at the same time that has not stopped our resolve to find who is responsible for Joyce’s death,” he added. “This investigation continues to remain active and will never close.”
McLain publicly asked the FBI to take over the case in August 2010, and an FBI spokeswoman at the time said the agency would do so if it invoked federal jurisdiction, which would require the U.S. Attorney’s Office to find a violation of federal law in the crime.
The office did not comply with the request then.
A 16-year-old sophomore at Schenck High School in East Millinocket, Joyce McLain was killed sometime during the night of Aug. 8, 1980, apparently while jogging. About 35 hours passed, and a rainstorm came, before searcher Peter Larlee found her body in a clearing near electrical lines close to the school’s athletic fields. Her head and neck had been hit with a blunt object.
The homicide drew national attention on the syndicated television show “Unsolved Mysteries” in 1989, in which Larlee re-enacted his awful discovery, and in People magazine, which in April 2009 featured the discovery of forensic evidence found during an exhumation in 2008. The “Unsolved Mysteries” episode is still available on the Internet.
No arrests have been made.
State police maintain that the case always has been actively pursued.
A glimpse into the elaborate and confidential nature of the case came in December 2009, when U.S. District Judge John Woodcock urged Philip Scott Fournier, 48, of Millinocket to disclose to investigators whatever information he has about the McLain case. Identified by the judge as a “person of interest” in the homicide, Fournier was being sentenced by Woodcock to 6½ years in prison for possession of child pornography.
Fournier’s federal public defender said that Fournier had cooperated with investigators, and Fournier’s ex-wife said she believes that Fournier has knowledge of the crime.
McLain has said Fournier is among about a dozen suspects or people of interest spoken of since the homicide.
She said the FBI’s only involvement in the case has been to write a profile of the killer back in the 1980s. McLain said that she and a friend learned from the FBI a year ago that the agency “hasn’t been asked” to get more involved with the case.
McCausland would not confirm the FBI had profiled the killer, but said the agency had assisted investigators previously.
McLain said she and her friends plan to deliver the finished petitions to the agencies involved and other potential key players, such as state political leaders. McLain didn’t know whether the petition would help, but said, “I think there are a lot of voters on that if they check the names.”
“After this right here,” McLain said in reference to the petition drive, “I want to get a petition to get the AG’s office not to be handling all unsolved murder cases. The AG’s office has full control of all unsolved murders. Therefore, no other agencies can work on it [her daughter’s case] without the AG’s approval.”
McLain said she believes that state police should share their information fully with families involved with cold cases that are at least 5 years old and allow families to share the information with other police agencies or have other agencies handle the investigations.
Opening the case files to the McLains would be “totally inappropriate,” McCausland said.
“There is only a limited amount of people who know what happened ― the investigators and those responsible for her death,” he said. “It has got to remain in this closed circle. We cannot open these files to the public.”