EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe has asked the FBI to examine the nearly 32-year-old murder of Joyce McLain, Snowe’s spokesman said Friday.
Snowe wants the FBI to review the case, but apparently stopped short of advocating that the agency take control of the case from state police, as the victim’s mother, Pamela McLain, has sought, Snowe communications director Chris Averill said.
“This is obviously a horrific case and a tremendous burden on the family to live with this terrible uncertainty,” Averill said Friday. “For the family’s sake closure is an important element here. I think the senator would say she wants to be supportive to the extent possible.”
McLain sent Snowe a copy of a letter she sent to the FBI seeking that federal investigators “take a fresh look at the case,” Averill said. That letter arrived May 21.
That same day, the Republican senator forwarded McLain’s letter and sent a letter herself to the FBI “explaining Mrs. McLain’s hope that a new set of eyes and new technology will bring a break in the case and closure for the family. Sen. Snowe asked the FBI to look into the situation and keep her informed as to its response,” Averill added.
Averill declined to release copies of the letters and said that as far as he knows, no one from the FBI has yet responded to them.
Intervening in law enforcement issues on behalf of Snowe’s constituents is an infrequent but not unusual occurrence for the senator, Averill said. Her office acted as an intermediary when Lee native Michael Severance was murdered in Texas in 2005 and Yong Cha Jones of Bangor when her son was murdered in Baltimore in the 1990s, Averill said.
Snowe did not take a position on whether the FBI should take over the McLain case, Averill said.
“I don’t think she takes any position on that. That’s up to law enforcement or the relevant agencies involved to figure that out,” Averill said.
McLain wasn’t home to answer a request for comment made Friday afternoon. An FBI spokesman in the bureau’s Boston office referred inquiries to its Washington, D.C., headquarters, which did not respond to a request seeking comment.
Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said he doubted Snowe’s intervention in the matter would change anything.
The Maine State Police have no objection to another agency reviewing the case, and FBI agents have reviewed the case previously, but state police investigators will likely not seek a new review, he said.
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.
Maine 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 Fournier had cooperated with investigators, and Fournier’s ex-wife said she believes 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.
Pamela McLain and friends of the McLain family made news last month when they announced the circulation of an Internet petition urging that the FBI take control of the investigation from state police. McLain also wanted state police to share the case file with her.
State police have refused both requests, saying they would seek FBI assistance if they thought it would be helpful.
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 the case 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.