EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage’s staff is working to determine whether he should submit a governor’s bill to the Legislature proposing the creation of a cold case squad to help solve the 33-year-old unsolved murder of Joyce McLain, officials said.
Patrick Day, a volunteer working with Rep. Steve Stanley, D-Medway, on the proposed legislation, said that he and Stanley met with LePage on Dec. 2 to enlist the governor’s support on the issue.
The Legislative Council, a leadership group with control over what issues legislators will address during the session that begins in January, voted 5-5 on Nov. 21 against allowing Stanley’s proposal creating the squad to be considered by legislators this spring.
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.
No final decisions have been made, LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said, but the staff is “working with the Legislature on this, and we will review the bill language to consider the matter further.”
LePage has not committed to submitting the bill to the Legislature, Bennett said.
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.
McLain was a 16-year-old sophomore when she disappeared while jogging in her neighborhood on the night of Aug. 8, 1980. Her body was found near school grounds on the morning of Aug. 10. She had been hit in the head with a blunt object, state police have said.
State police have said they have reviewed more than a dozen suspects and developed a voluminous case file but no arrests have been made. Stanley has said that a full-time squad would end a great deal of agony for Pamela McLain and other victims’ relatives by bringing justice to unsolved cases.
LePage said he would consider supporting Stanley’s efforts when they met last month.