Starla Markie has known for years that her ex-husband, Philip Scott Fournier, had some knowledge of the 29-year-old unsolved homicide of Joyce McLain, but was amazed to hear that a federal judge recently had identified him as a “person of interest” in the case.

“It was a shock. I didn’t expect that a judge would have openly called him out,” the 35-year-old Markie said during a telephone interview Wednesday from her home in Arizona. “I understood the encouragement to offer up what he knew, but the public recognition shocked me.

“I would expect him [the judge] to have other people encourage him [Fournier] to talk behind closed doors, but there were a half-dozen of his family members there, and it shocked me,” she said.

Just before sentencing Fournier, 48, on Dec. 7 to 6½ years imprisonment for possession of child pornography, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock urged him to disclose to investigators any information he has about the 1980 slaying of the 16-year-old sophomore at Schenck High School of East Millinocket.

“That case has hung like a dark cloud over that community and been very painful for many people. If you can help people in that community remove that cloud, I would urge you to do that,” Woodcock said.

Joyce McLain last was seen the night of Aug. 8, 1980, while jogging. Her partially clad body was found two days later in a clearing near the school. Her head and neck had been hit with a blunt object.

Woodcock made Fournier the first person publicly identified as a person of interest in the case.

Fournier did not respond in court. His court-appointed attorney said after the sentencing that her client had cooperated fully with investigators. Fournier’s mother, stepfather and sister, who live in East Millinocket and Woodville, have declined to comment on the judge’s statements.

The victim’s mother, Pamela McLain, has said Fournier, whom she knows as Scott, is among the 12 to 14 people mentioned to her by state police and others in connection with the homicide.

Fournier is a person of interest because sometime in the early hours of Aug. 9, 1980 — or after midnight on the night of Joyce McLain’s disappearance — he stole an oil truck and crashed into another vehicle. The theft’s timing left investigators wondering why Fournier was behaving so rashly, McLain said.

Fournier suffered a skull fracture in the accident and was in a coma for eight days, the judge said. His criminal record shows that he was charged with felony burglary and theft by unauthorized use of property, a misdemeanor, for the truck theft and sentenced to two years imprisonment on July 6, 1981. He served his sentence and was released.

Since his sentencing last month, Fournier had been held at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland. On Dec. 22, he was due to be transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, N.J., a federal Department of Justice official said.

The low-security facility houses male inmates on the Fort Dix-McGuire Air Force Base. As of Wednesday, prison officials and the Federal Bureau of Prisons online inmate locator at listed Fournier as “in transit.”

Markie speaks guardedly of Fournier. When asked what she thought of his being convicted on child pornography charges, she said she was not surprised to hear of it. She did not elaborate.

Fournier’s troubles weren’t apparent when he met Markie in Bangor in the fall of 1995, she said. Both Brewer residents, she was 20, he was 34. He played on a softball team sponsored by Together Place, a social club for mental health consumers, she said.

“When you first meet him, he’s a really nice guy,” Markie said. “A little quiet, he likes to stay to himself. If he knows you need help with something, he will help you out.”

The relationship deepened when an ex-boyfriend began stalking her, Markie said.

“He took me and my son in, he offered his place up for us, helped support us for the first six months. He was amazing,” Markie said. “He encouraged my family ties. I actually got him to talk about his family, with whom he was estranged.”

Markie said Fournier’s possible connection to the McLain case became apparent when a rerun of the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries” featuring the McLain homicide came on television.

“He had become frustrated, saying that he tried to offer help, tried to offer [to the show’s producers] what he knew, and what they put in the episode differed from what he had told them. He didn’t understand how that would help,” Markie said.

Markie’s account doesn’t jibe with Pam McLain’s recollection. “I can’t remember Scott Fournier being anywhere around when ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ was here,” McLain said.

Markie said: “What he told me [of the accident] was brief. It was more frustration that he wasn’t being heard, because he wanted to offer information to help. He was in a coma. He told me he could not remember a lot. … From what he told me, he answered the police honestly with every answer he put forth.”

Fournier and Markie married on April 7, 1997, and separated April 7, 1998. They divorced in spring 1999. She said they remained good friends until August 2001, when his treatment of their daughter became an issue, she said. She declined to elaborate.

Markie stopped regular contact with Fournier in June 2004. She last saw him in September 2004.

Married to Craig Markie on July 28, 2000, Starla Markie and the Markie family, including her daughter with Fournier, moved to Arizona in 2006. She said she knew Fournier was a person of interest to investigators before the judge’s statements, but declined to say how or when.

“I did a lot of growing, and I owe him for teaching me a lot,” Markie said. “He taught me things to look for, things that I want — he didn’t know it, but I learned a lot about what I am looking for through being with him.”