February 21, 2018
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Joyce McLain’s mother speaks of girl’s final hours as murder trial begins

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Updated:

A Maine mother who has waited nearly four decades for her daughter’s killer to be brought to justice took the stand Monday morning to describe the last time she saw the 16-year-old alive.

Pamela McLain of East Millinocket faced Philip Scott Fournier, the man accused of killing her daughter, Joyce McLain, in a second-floor courtroom at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.

Fournier, 57, of East Millinocket is charged with murder in the death of Joyce McLain.

Pamela McLain told Superior Court Justice Ann Murray that her blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter went jogging between 7 and 7:10 p.m. Aug. 8, 1980, the night she died, wearing a pink, blue and white terry cloth short and top set. Joyce had spent that day babysitting and giving piano lessons, her mother testified.

“I was sitting on my front steps and when she got across the street, she turned to me and said, ‘See you later, Mom,’” McLain testified.

Those were the last words she heard Joyce say.

McLain said when Joyce did not come home, she looked for the girl herself. Early the next day, a Saturday, she called family members who looked for the girl but did not find her, she testified. One of her brothers called the police to report the girl missing.

On Sunday, Aug. 10, 1980, she saw East Millinocket Police Chief John Doe outside her house.

“When I saw him coming up the walk I knew it was bad news,” she testified. “I asked him if they’d found Joyce, and he nodded his head yes. I asked him, ‘Dead?’ He nodded his head yes again. When I asked him, ‘Killed?’ He said, ‘Yes.’”

McLain testified that she knew Fournier only from seeing him walk up and down the street.

Fournier, who goes by his middle name, has been a person of interest in the case since the girl’s body was discovered behind the Schenck High School athletic fields in East Millinocket on the morning of Aug. 10, 1980, according to court documents. He was not arrested until March 2016, after being interviewed by police 27 times over the course of the 35-year investigation.

Fournier’s jury-waived trial is expected to last three weeks.

In the prosecution’s opening statement, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said Fournier’s statements to police would prove that he is guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. She said he knew details that investigators did not release, including that Joyce McLain was having her period when she was killed.

“There is no mystery around who killed Joyce McLain. It was Philip Scott Fournier,” Robbin told the judge.

She did not explain why Fournier was not arrested after he allegedly confessed to police in 1981 or why it took so long to charge him.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor theorized last week that William Stokes, the former head of the criminal division in the Maine Attorney General’s Office, thought there was insufficient evidence to convict Fournier. Stokes’ successor, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, charged Fournier with murder about 18 months after she took the job.

Stokes declined to comment on the matter last week.

In questioning Pamela McLain on Monday, Silverstein asked about the pressure she put on the Maine State Police over the years to arrest someone for her daughter’s murder. She caught the attention of the producers of “Unsolved Mysteries” and “Cold Case,” and spearheaded an effort to have her daughter’s body exhumed in 2008 to check for evidence that could be tested for DNA.

Fournier’s other defense attorney, Jon Haddow of Bangor, cited the lack of forensic evidence linking Fournier or any other suspect to Joyce McLain’s body or the crime scene. He said in his opening statement that the state’s charge “is not based on science but on subjectivity which is not a recipe to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Haddow also said Fournier’s statements over the years have been inconsistent due to a skull fracture he suffered in a car crash about six hours after Joyce McLain was last seen by a witness who saw her running. Fournier stole a fuel truck and crashed it at about 3 a.m. on Aug. 9, 1980, in the neighboring town of Medway.

Before testimony began, Silverstein told the judge that Fournier on Monday rejected a plea deal offered by the prosecution. Silverstein refused to outline the details of the offer.

The judge, attorneys and court officers are expected on Monday afternoon to visit the murder scene behind the athletic fields at Schenck High School and places where Fournier was seen on Aug. 8 and 9, 1980.

Although Fournier apparently has always been a suspect in McLain’s slaying, that fact was not made public until 2009. U.S. District Judge John Woodcock identified Fournier as “a person of interest” in McLain’s homicide when sentencing him to 6½ years in federal prison for possession of child pornography. Fournier was released Jan. 6, 2015.

Since being arrested on the murder charge on March 4, 2016, Fournier has been held at Penobscot County Jail in Bangor because he has been unable to post $300,000 cash bail.

If convicted of murder, Fournier faces between 25 years and life in prison.

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