December 16, 2018
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Judge to deliver verdict in 1980 murder of Joyce McLain

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
For several years a photograph of Joyce McLain has hung in the window of the East Millinocket home of her mother, Pam McLain. A judge is expected Thursday to deliver a verdict in the murder trial of Philip Scott Fournier, who is accused of killing Joyce McLain.

A Superior Court judge plans to announce Thursday whether an East Millinocket man is guilty of killing 16-year-old Joyce McLain more than 37 years ago, according to the court clerk’s office.

Philip Scott Fournier, 57, was tried before Justice Ann Murray on one count of murder beginning in late January. Murray will announce the verdict fewer than three weeks after the trial ended Feb. 5 at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.

Fournier waived his right to a jury trial, leaving his fate in the judge’s hands.

McLain was last seen alive at about 8 p.m. on Aug. 8, 1980, jogging near Schenck High School in East Millinocket. Her partially clothed body was found at about 6 a.m. on Aug. 10, 1980, behind the school’s athletic fields. The back of her skull was caved in, and her hands were tied behind her back with a blue cloth.

The prosecution argued that Murray should believe the confessions Fournier allegedly made to his pastor and his parents in 1981 and to a co-worker eight years later. Prosecutors urged her to disregard that it took police decades, until March 2016, to arrest him.

The defense team told Murray that the state had not proven Fournier’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, hinging its case on statements Fournier made after suffering a traumatic brain injury.

At about 3 a.m. on Aug. 9, 1980, the day before McLain’s body was discovered, Fournier burglarized a local garage and stole a fuel truck. He crashed into a passenger vehicle less than a mile away in Medway and suffered a skull fracture. The defense maintained that Fournier’s injury that night made his statements over the decades unreliable, because he confused his own memories with things he’d been told and with dreams.

No forensic evidence was presented at the trial. No fingerprints were found at the scene and no identifiable DNA was recovered from McLain’s clothing. Efforts to link a possible murder weapon through forensics to McLain’s body and to Fournier or any other possible suspects were unsuccessful.

The Maine attorney general’s office declined Tuesday to comment on the pending verdict. It is prosecutors’ practice not to comment until after a verdict has been announced.

Fournier’s attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor, did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment. Silverstein has said for nearly two years that the state could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Fournier killed McLain.

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 faces between 25 years and life in prison.

If he is found guilty, sentencing most likely would be set for later in the year.

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