The date for the sentencing of Joyce McLain‘s killer has been set for April 27 at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.
Philip Scott Fournier, 57, of East Millinocket faces between 25 years and life in prison on his murder conviction. Due to his age, the imposition of just the mandatory minimum sentence most likely means he will die in prison.
Attorneys are not expected to file sentencing memorandums until a few days before the hearing before Superior Court Justice Ann Murray.
Fournier was convicted Feb. 22 of the Aug. 8, 1980, murder of 16-year-old Joyce McLain behind the athletic fields at Schenck High School in East Millinocket. Her partially clad body was discovered early on the morning of Aug. 10, 1980. The back of her skull was caved in.
In convicting Fournier, Murray found that his 1981 confessions to a minister, his parents and police were confirmed by his alleged 1989 statement, “I killed her,” to a co-worker who asked what he knew about the McLain slaying. Fournier recanted his 1981 confessions but did not take the stand at his jury-waived trial to rebut Bangor High School janitor John DeRoche’s testimony about the 1989 confession.
The prosecution and defense attorneys declined last month to say what they might recommend at sentencing. Murray is unlikely to impose a life sentence given a 1990 state Supreme Court decision, State of Maine v. John Shortsleeves, that laid out seven conditions under which a judge may send a defendant to prison for life.
They are: premeditation; murder accompanied by torture, sexual abuse or other extreme cruelty; murder committed in a penal institution by an inmate; multiple victims; murder of a hostage; a previous murder conviction; or the murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer. One or more of them must exist for a convicted murderer to be sentenced to life.
McLain was not sexually assaulted. Fournier denied raping her to his pastor because “it was the wrong time of the month.”
The sentence imposed on a Somerset County man convicted of murdering a woman 32 years after her death, may shed some light on what sentence Murray might impose.
In December 2012 Jay Mercier, then 57, of Industry was sentenced to 70 years in prison for murdering Rita St. Peter on July 4, 1980. The body of the 20-year-old mother’s battered body was found on Campground Road in North Anson the next day.
Until Fournier’s conviction, St. Peter’s slaying was the oldest cold case in Maine to be brought to trial.
Murray could consider, as then Superior Court Justice John Nivison did in sentencing Mercier, the fact that Fournier did not come forward and take responsibility for her death.
Nivison is now the U.S. Magistrate Judge in Bangor.
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