State police chief: FBI says it cannot help in Joyce McLain homicide probe

Posted Aug. 08, 2012, at 3:17 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 08, 2012, at 7:24 p.m.
Pamela McLain (far right) meets friends during a memorial service for her daughter Joyce McLain on the 32nd anniversary of her daughter's homicide .
Pamela McLain (far right) meets friends during a memorial service for her daughter Joyce McLain on the 32nd anniversary of her daughter's homicide . Buy Photo
Pamela McLain (far right) meets friends during a memorial service for her daughter Joyce McLain on the 32nd anniversary of her daughter's homicide. The event was held at Schenck High School on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012.
Pamela McLain (far right) meets friends during a memorial service for her daughter Joyce McLain on the 32nd anniversary of her daughter's homicide. The event was held at Schenck High School on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. Buy Photo
Joyce McLain
Bangor Daily News file photo
Joyce McLain

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — As Pamela McLain marked the 32nd anniversary of her 16-year-old daughter’s unsolved slaying Wednesday by seeking FBI involvement in the case, the state’s top cop said federal agents have decided they can’t help the investigation.

State police and FBI agents, including Todd Difede, the supervisory special agent in Portland, twice met and reviewed the case in the last two weeks before Difede reached his conclusion, said Col. Robert Williams, chief of the Maine State Police. The reviews took several hours.

“The conclusion was that the FBI couldn’t do anything more than the state police had done at this point,” Williams said in a telephone interview late Wednesday afternoon. “Exactly why they said there wasn’t anything more they could do, I don’t know.”

“There seems to be some feeling that the FBI is going to come in with something new that hasn’t been shed on this. It is important for people to know that it is not a case of us not wanting help or not seeking help,” Williams added. “If the FBI could solve this, we would drive to [Washington] D.C. and turn this over to them ourselves. It is not a relationship issue.”

About 50 people joined Pamela McLain on the Schenck High School soccer field Wednesday near where her daughter’s body was found and released dozens of balloons to show their commitment to bringing Joyce McLain’s killer to justice.

Memorial service organizers said they sent Maine Attorney General William Schneider by certified mail a petition with about 4,000 signatures pressing for FBI involvement in the case. The petitions were sent before Williams’ statement and were due to arrive in Augusta on Wednesday.

Speaking after the memorial ceremony, McLain said she wants the FBI to do more than review the homicide case file. McLain, who met briefly with Williams and other state police officers on Aug. 2, said she wants FBI agents to join the investigation as equal partners in the probe.

“I am asking for them to come on board to work as a team, together, going through that file thoroughly, and to go talk to people named as suspects and weed them out and review the evidence found. And talk to [other] people involved in it ― not just a review. A review is talk,” McLain said.

A 16-year-old sophomore at Schenck, Joyce McLain was killed sometime during the night of Aug. 8, 1980. She was last seen jogging in her neighborhood. 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.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe wrote a letter in late May asking the FBI to review the case. Maine State Police maintain that the case always has been actively pursued and their spokesman has said that investigators feel little would be gained by bringing the FBI in.

The FBI was involved previously in the case, providing state police years ago with a profile of the killer or killers, Williams said. Williams said he did not read the case file and is only generally aware of its details.

State police do not hesitate to seek help from other agencies when they feel it necessary, Williams said. The FBI became involved almost immediately in the search for Ayla Reynolds, the Waterville toddler who went missing in December from her father’s home, he noted. That investigation continues.

“It’s not an issue of not asking the FBI for help or not wanting them to,” Williams said.

Williams stressed that the McLain investigation is far from dead, with detectives still reviewing the case periodically and chasing down new leads. State police have traveled out of state several times to interview persons of interest connected to the case.

“Still to this day we are interviewing people we hear about, reinterviewing people,” Williams said.

McLain said she remains committed to getting the FBI to partner with state police on the investigation despite Williams’ statements and is working with several people to accomplish this. She declined to elaborate.

More than 4,000 people signed the Internet petition seeking FBI involvement in the case, and several people who attended the memorial ceremony said they believe that McLain’s killer can still be caught.

One of the petition drive organizers, Judy Turcotte, said she was disappointed that the FBI won’t be joining the investigation. But the disappointment is only temporary, Turcotte said.

“You kind of pick yourself up and focus on getting done what needs to be done, and that’s getting the word out that people want answers,” Turcotte said.

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