The red lettering has faded, but the hand-painted sign remains nailed to a tree near the site where a 16-year-old died more than 37 years ago in East Millinocket.
The sign says: “8-8-80 Joyce M. McLain We will …” The final words have disappeared, but a heart and what is intended to be Psalm 23 still are legible.
This was just one of the sites seen by Superior Court Justice Ann Murray on Monday afternoon, as she presides over the jury-waived trial of Philip Scott Fournier, who is accused of killing McLain.
Murray visited several locations in East Millinocket to see for herself the path McLain took on her last jog on the hot and humid night of Aug. 8, 1980, and the area behind Schenk High School, where her partially clothed body was found.
A few blocks away, at the Spruce Street house where the slain teenager’s mother Pamela McLain still lives, color copies of the girl’s school photographs still are taped to a front window. Over them are the words “Justice for Joyce.”
Fournier’s murder trial began Monday. He visited the sites accompanied by guards but was not allowed to get out of the van.
Earlier Monday, Pamela McLain faced the 57-year-old East Millinocket man, who is accused of fracturing her daughter’s skull, in a second-floor courtroom at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor. She was the only witness to take the stand Monday as the trial got underway, and she described the last time she saw Joyce alive.
Pamela McLain told the judge that her blond-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 baby-sitting 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 that 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 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 because of 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 trial was expected to continue Tuesday as long as the courthouse is not closed due to inclement weather. Witnesses who saw Joyce McLain jogging shortly before she disappeared are expected to testify.
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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