MEDWAY, Maine — The vault and casket containing the body of homicide victim Joyce McLain were in “remarkable condition” despite being interred for 28 years, state police said Thurs-day morning.

About 30 state police detec-tives, forensic experts, and town workers using shovels and a forklift worked for about 2 hours before the casket con-taining the body was lifted from the gravesite in the local ceme-tery and transported to Augusta for examination by renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden on Friday. Baden will be assisted by fa-mous criminologist Dr. Henry Lee.

Only a few inches of ground-water seepage appeared to have penetrated the vault, and possi-bly the casket, much to the sur-prise of investigators, said Ste-ven McCausland, public safety spokesman.

“The casket looks in excep-tional shape,” McCausland said. “If there’s something to be found, we will find it.”

That discovery is among the reasons why Pamela McLain, the victim’s mother, is hopeful that the lingering nightmare of her daughter’s slaying is com-ing to a close. McLain has tried for several years to convince investigators to re-examine her daughter’s body in search of DNA evidence that might lead to catching the killer.

Far from being dispirited at the sight of her daughter’s cof-fin, McLain was buoyant.

“I was prepared for this to be hard,” McLain said. “If it was done 20 years ago, I would not have been as prepared as I am.

“I have more hope right now than I had 28 years ago,” she added.

“I believe there’s a big chance that this will lead to something,” she said. “Every-thing fell into place. I’ve said all along it’s because of the Big Guy [God].

“I know that we’ll solve this,” she said.

McCausland described Pam-ela McLain’s effort to bring the investigation to this point as “Herculean.”

State police evidence techni-cians also preserved sod and topsoil samples from the grave-site for possible evidence, McCausland said.

A 16-year-old Schenck High School sophomore, McLain was killed sometime around the night of Aug. 8, 1980. Her body was found two days later in a power line clearing about 200 feet from the school’s soccer fields. Her head and neck had been struck repeatedly with a blunt object.

Several suspects have been investigated, but no arrests have been made and the inves-tigation remains open.

To help Baden and Lee and prepare for their arrival, four state police detectives who were the lead investigators on the McLain case met in Bangor last week to discuss the case, McCausland said. East Milli-nocket Police Chief Twig Cramp and his predecessor also attended the meeting.

The chief forensic patholo-gist for the New York State Po-lice and host of HBO’s “Autopsy” series, Baden has been a medical examiner for 45 years. He has performed more than 20,000 autopsies and helped with congressional re-investigations in the 1970s of the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Mar-tin Luther King Jr.

One of the world’s top crimi-nologists, Lee is known for his work on the O.J. Simpson mur-der case and the rape trial of William Kennedy Smith in 1991. He also was pivotal in Maine’s first trial involving DNA.