State legislative panel rejects cold-case squad proposal for a year

Posted Nov. 21, 2013, at 7:55 p.m.
Rep. Steve Stanley
Linda Coan O'Kresik
Rep. Steve Stanley Buy Photo

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — A Medway legislator who proposed that the state create a cold case squad to solve a 33-year-old town homicide and other unsolved murders said he might appeal to Gov. Paul LePage after a legislative committee rejected his idea on Thursday.

The Legislative Council’s 5-5 vote means that state Rep. Steve Stanley’s proposal cannot be submitted for consideration until the January 2015 session, he said.

“I am disappointed, very disappointed in it,” Stanley said Thursday. “You have all kinds of victims [families] out there that would like closure who are going to have to wait for when state police have time to work on” the cold cases.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office, which prosecutes state homicide investigations, has Assistant Attorney General Lara M. Nomani assigned to review cold cases but no state police investigator works them full-time. Investigators work cold cases when not handling more active probes, officials have said.

Nomani has about 120 cases. The cases include Bangor and Portland police investigations and missing persons cases or suspicious deaths where homicide is suspected. Bangor, Portland and state police handle murder investigations.

Maine Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, who supports Stanley’s proposal, has said the Legislature would have to allocate about $500,000 for the first year and $424,000 annually thereafter to fund a squad of two detectives, a part-time evidence tech and supporting office space and equipment.

A 2001 effort to create a squad died for lack of funding.

Stanley’s effort to get the bill included in the January emergency session failed earlier this month. The Maine Constitution limits bills in the second year of each legislative session to those of an emergency nature, proposed by the governor, forwarded by citizen petition, budgetary or study bills.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick; Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash; House Majority Leader Seth A. Barry, D-Bowdoinham; House Assistant Majority Leader Jeffrey McCabe, D-Skowhegan; and House Assistant Minority Leader Alexander Willette, R-Mapleton, voted to allow legislators to review the bill.

Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland; Senate Assistant Majority Leader Anne Haskell, D-Portland; Senate Minority Leader Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport; Senate Assistant Minority Leader Roger Katz, R-Augusta; and House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, opposed.

In October, Stanley proposed creating the squad. He said it could alleviate the suffering of many Maine families, including that of Joyce McLain, a 16-year-old Schenck High School sophomore who was found murdered on school grounds on Aug. 10, 1980.

LePage appeared to support the cold-case proposal when Stanley and Patrick Day, a volunteer who supports the McLain family’s efforts to get justice for Joyce, discussed it with him earlier this month. Stanley said he will consult first with Day before deciding whether to enlist LePage’s help in revitalizing his initiative.

McLain’s mother, Pamela McLain, said she was not surprised at the vote.

“I didn’t feel it would make it, that funding would be the problem,” McLain said. “That’s all I have to say.”

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