Proposal to create cold case squad, help solve McLain homicide revived, legislator says

Posted Jan. 12, 2014, at 2:59 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 12, 2014, at 3:16 p.m.
Rep. Stephen Stanley, D-Medway
State of Maine photo
Rep. Stephen Stanley, D-Medway

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — A proposal killed by state legislative leaders that would create Maine’s first cold case squad to help solve a 33-year-old town homicide might have new life, Rep. Steve Stanley said Sunday.

Officials at the legislative revisor’s office told Stanley, D-Medway, on Friday that he had seven days to collect a lead co-sponsor from the state Senate and eight additional co-sponsors, and his proposal would be considered by the Legislature as a bill next spring, he said.

“I am not quite sure how it happened, but I am very pleased,” Stanley, D-Medway, said Sunday.

An Act To Create a Cold Case Homicide Unit in the Department of the Attorney General, a proposal drafted by the Office of the Revisor of Statutes, calls for the squad’s formation by the Maine attorney general’s office and the Maine Department of Public Safety.

The squad would be staffed by an attorney, two state police detectives and a state crime lab technician “to work exclusively on unsolved murders in the state,” the proposal states.

Stanley and Patrick Day, a volunteer working to help solve the unsolved murder of 16-year-old Joyce McLain in 1980, enlisted Gov. Paul LePage early last month in their efforts to create the squad. LePage agreed to study the idea and spoke in favor of it.

“That might have had something to do with it,” Stanley said. “It is not an LD yet, but it will be when I get the signatures.”

Day and the victim’s mother, Pamela McLain, were thrilled at the news.

“In the state of Maine, we need a cold case squad that can investigate and has training and experience in cold cases. We need that desperately,” Day said Saturday.

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.

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. 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 occurred. 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.

Stanley said he plans to be in Augusta on Monday to start collecting signatures. He didn’t anticipate any difficulties securing his quota, he said.

“I have seven or eight now who all approached me and said they supported it,” Stanley said.

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