September 20, 2018
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No forensic evidence links Fournier to McLain murder, experts testify

Courtesy of Pam McLain
Courtesy of Pam McLain
Joyce McLain
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Updated:

No DNA or fingerprint evidence links the man accused of killing 16-year-old Joyce McLain nearly 40 years ago to her clothes or the items found near her body, a technician from the Maine State Police Laboratory testified Monday afternoon.

Philip Scott Fournier, 57, of East Millinocket is charged with murder in the teenager’s death.

McLain was last seen alive jogging near Schenck High School in East Millinocket at about 8 p.m. on Aug. 8, 1980. Her partially clad body was found behind the school’s athletic fields at about 6 a.m. on Aug. 10, 1980.

Testimony about forensic evidence came on the sixth day of Fournier’s jury-waived trial before Superior Court Justice Ann Murray at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.

Retired detectives who were at the murder scene in 1980 testified last week that thunderstorms and heavy downpours overnight on Aug. 8 and 9, 1980, may have washed away some evidence. They also said they were unaware of DNA at that time or how it might be used to solve crimes in the future.

Forensic chemist Alison Gingras, who works for the crime lab, testified that no blood or fingerprints were found on a ceramic electrical insulator or a rock, both found near McLain’s body, either in 1980 or when the items were tested again in 2015. She also testified about the testing of three hairs found when McLain’s body was exhumed in 2008. One matched McLain but the other two did not match Fournier or any of the four other males and one female whose DNA was submitted for comparison to an out-of-state lab last year.

The defense has said those hairs could have come from any number of sources. Many people from out of town were in the Katahdin area the weekend that McLain was killed, for a softball tournament and working construction at the East Millinocket mill, witnesses said last week.

Local police officers also covered McLain’s body with a blanket before Maine State Police detectives arrived at the murder scene and made them remove it. It has not been entered as evidence.

DNA expert Jennifer Sabean, also of the state crime lab, testified that she tested McLain’s clothing, found hidden not far from her body, many times during the past 20 years she has worked at the lab. Sabean said she matched the DNA in blood on the clothing to McLain but found no male DNA on her jogging outfit, underwear, socks or shoes.

A third retired Maine State Police detective who interviewed Fournier within a year of McLain’s death took the stand Monday morning.

William Caron of Fort Kent said he interviewed Fournier on May 15, 1981, three days after he allegedly confessed to former Maine State Police Detective Ronald Graves. Graves, who now lives in Florida, interviewed Fournier at the Bangor police station rather than the East Millinocket police station at the suggestion of Fournier’s parents, who were concerned for their son’s safety, the couple testified Friday.

The Rev. Vinal Thomas drove Fournier to the Bangor police station after he confessed to Thomas and to Fournier’s mother and stepfather, according to testimony last week.

Caron said Monday that Fournier denied killing McLain in the interview. But Fournier said that after drinking heavily the night she was killed, he tripped over a female body that he did not recognize. He said he ran away and was injured in a crash a few hours later, Caron testified.

When asked about his inconsistent statements, Caron testified that Fournier replied: “because I remembered these things but I know that they weren’t a part of my memory, they were things I made up.”

The prosecution maintains that although Fournier’s statements to police over the years have been inconsistent, he confessed to his pastor, parents and others, and knows details only the police were privy to.

Prosecutors have not told the judge why it took so long to charge Fournier.

The defense claims Fournier’s memory is unreliable because he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car crash about six hours after McLain was last seen.

The trial, expected to continue another eight to 10 days, will resume Tuesday with the prosecution presenting McLain’s autopsy report. Then the defense is expected to call several retired Maine State Police detectives who questioned Fournier over the years but did not charge him.

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, Fournier faces between 25 years and life in prison.

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