Photos of 16-year-old Joyce McLain’s body were shown publicly for the first time Wednesday, to a judge who will decide whether Philip Scott Fournier is responsible for the girl’s death nearly four decades ago.
On the third day of Fournier’s murder trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor, McLain’s family members and friends wept as the crime scene photographs were displayed on large scenes in the courtroom. Fournier did not outwardly react to the display.
The teenager, whose partially clad body was found in a wooded area behind the Schenck High School athletic fields in East Millinocket two days after her death on Aug. 8, 1980, was lying almost face down.
A blue cloth bound her hands.
McLain’s head was under a low bush. Tan lines from the hours she spent with friends at the town pool that summer were visible on her upper thighs and across her back.
Former Maine State Police Sgt. Roderick Carr testified that the photographs accurately depicted what he saw when he arrived at the scene the morning of Aug. 10, 1980, more than 36 hours after McLain was last seen jogging near the high school. Carr told Superior Court Justice Ann Murray that after the photos were taken, the girl’s body was covered.
Carr, who served in the Legislature after retiring from the state police in 1996, said the back of McLain’s skull was crushed. The Maine medical examiner’s office determined that she died of blunt force trauma to the head.
Fournier, 57, of East Millinocket is charged with killing the girl. He has been a person of interest in the case since McLain’s body was discovered, but was not arrested until March 2016 after being interviewed by police 27 times over the course of the 35-year investigation.
Prosecutors have not explained why Fournier wasn’t arrested after he allegedly confessed or why it took so long to charge him.
The defense has maintained that Fournier made inconsistent statements to police over the years due to a traumatic brain injury he suffered in a vehicle accident in neighboring Medway at about 3 a.m. on Aug. 9, 1980, the day after McLain’s death.
On Wednesday, Jeffrey Fayle of Medway described how he and a friend came upon the accident during a beer run from a Grindstone camp and pulled Fournier from a fuel truck, which he’d stolen from a garage in East Millinocket. Fournier had collided with a car carrying two women. Fayle said he drove to the East Millinocket police station to get help while his friend stayed behind to help the victims. He remembered the crash as occurring around 10 p.m., however, rather than the middle of the night.
The prosecution in its opening statement pointed to a 1981 confession Fournier allegedly made to his minister, his mother, his stepfather and Bangor police officers. There is no recording or report of Fournier’s statement to police. In subsequent interviews, Fournier denied killing McLain, but knew details about the crime scene that were not made public by investigators, the state maintains.
The jury-waived trial, which is expected to last three weeks, began Monday with opening arguments and the testimony of McLain’s mother, Pamela McLain. The judge visited East Millinocket to observe the murder scene, the McLain home and the route McLain jogged the last night of her life.
Friends and family of the slain teen testified Tuesday and Wednesday morning about when and where they saw the girl jogging. Others testified about seeing Fournier near the high school the night she died.
Witnesses expected to testify Thursday include the former detective who found McLain’s clothing hidden under a rock near her body and the minister to whom Fournier allegedly confessed.
The fact that Fournier was a suspect in McLain’s slaying wasn’t made public until 2009, when U.S. District Judge John Woodcock identified him as “a person of interest” in the cold case homicide during a sentencing on another charge. Woodcock urged Fournier to cooperate with investigators in sentencing him to 6½ years in federal prison for possession of child pornography. Fournier was released on Jan. 6, 2015.
Since being arrested on the murder charge on March 4, 2016, Fournier has been held at Penobscot County Jail in Bangor unable to post $300,000 cash bail.
If convicted of murder, Fournier, who decided to go to trial rather than take a plea offer, faces between 25 years and life in prison.
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