September 25, 2018
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Defense rests in trial for 1980 killing of Joyce McLain

By Alex Acquisto, BDN Staff
Updated:

Defense attorneys finished calling witnesses Friday morning in the tenth day of the jury-waived trial of Philip Scott Fournier for the slaying of a teenager in East Millinocket nearly 40 years ago.

Fournier, 57, chose not to testify Friday in the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor. Superior Court Judge Ann Murray declared a court recess just after 11 a.m. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday morning.

Joyce McLain, 16, was last seen jogging near sunset on Friday, Aug. 8, 1980 in East Millinocket. Two days later, her partially clad body was found in a wooded area behind the athletic fields at Schenck High School. The back of her skull had been crushed, and a blue cloth bound both her hands.

The prosecution has maintained that although Fournier’s statements to police over the years have been inconsistent, he confessed the murder to his pastor, parents and a former co-worker, offering details that only police know, like the fact that McLain was having her period when she was killed.

The defense has argued that the traumatic brain injury Fournier suffered in a car accident in neighboring Medway in the early morning hours of Aug. 9, 1980, a day after McLain’s death, contributed to his inability to give reliable statements.

Fournier’s attorneys have also sought to highlight alternate suspects in the case and called into question the validity and reliability of the evidence. Many of the handwritten notes initially collected by police were not added to the file until years later and detectives had to retrace steps that had already been taken years earlier to try and collect the same statements or leads, according to testimony on Thursday.

Former state police Detective Joseph Zamboni, who took over the McLain murder case in 1986, said it was a “problem,” because “their memory wasn’t nearly as it was back then.”

Zamboni testified Thursday that not until the episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” aired in 1989, did he come to find that many of the tips and notes initially collected for the case had not been formally added to the case file.

“It became apparent to me that there were a lot of people out there” who had given reports that “were never written,” he said.

Zamboni drove to retired state police Det. Ronald Graves’ cabin in Aroostook County in the late 1980s to retrieve 17 notebooks of handwritten notes that had not been added to the case file, he said.

Throughout the two-week trial, the judge has visited McLain’s home in East Millinocket, her jogging route and the place where her body was found.

A DNA expert testified that no trace of Fournier’s DNA or any male DNA was found on McLain’s clothes, which were recovered near her body, and a forensic chemist testified that no blood or fingerprints were found on the ceramic electrical insulator from a power pole, or a rock found near McLain’s body.

A retired detective testified that Fournier, nine months after McLain’s death, walked police to the site where her body was discovered.

Fournier was interviewed by police 27 times throughout the 35-year investigation of McLain’s murder, before he was arrested in March 2016.

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

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