EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — The second appearance in four weeks of Maine State Police detectives combing the site where a teenager was found bludgeoned to death 35 years ago had the victim’s mother hopeful Tuesday that substantial progress is occurring on the case.
Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, confirmed that detectives revisited an area beneath utility lines near Schenck High School’s athletic fields on Tuesday. They previously searched that area on Oct. 1.
“No details are being released of what detectives were looking for or whether anything was found,” McCausland said in a statement released shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Detectives also told Pamela McLain of the search after it ended, McCausland said. McLain knew of the search — she said she saw a state police vehicle at the field — and was confident that the searchers were looking for something particular rather than just searching generally for evidence.
“Whatever they are doing, they know what they are doing this time. They are here for a purpose. They are on a mission of some sort this time, I feel,” McLain said Tuesday.
The body of 16-year-old Joyce McLain was found on Aug. 10, 1980, near the Schenck soccer fields. McLain, who was last seen jogging the night of Aug. 8, had suffered several blunt, traumatic wounds. State police have identified more than a dozen potential suspects in the case and continue to work it hard. Outside experts have reviewed the case several times, but no arrests have ever been made.
The officer who called told her only that state police were working on the case and would likely return to do more work, Pamela McLain said.
“The message was very short and to the point,” she said.
State police had about a dozen officers on the scene on Oct. 1. On Tuesday, workers at The Country Diner and Big Apple convenience store on Route 11 in Medway said they saw 10 investigators visit the Big Apple or eat at the diner at lunchtime.
“It seemed like they were busy,” said Joe Jacobs, a Big Apple clerk.
The searches coincide with state police efforts to launch a cold case squad inspired by the Joyce McLain homicide. State police were due to select a lieutenant to oversee the squad’s two detectives and forensic worker this week, with the rest of the squad’s members set to be named next month, McCausland said.
Officials from the Maine attorney general’s office are due to testify to the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee about the squad’s formation at 10 a.m. Thursday at Room 228 at the State House in Augusta. Some committee members are questioning why the squad did not launch shortly after its funding was allocated on July 1.
Pamela McLain said she thought the Major Crimes Unit detectives might want to solve the case before the squad begins work.
“Even if not, then the cold case squad would have something more to go on. I think [the squad] may want to get to this one first,” said McLain, who has had an occasionally contentious relationship with state police over their handling of the 35-year-old case.
Several times she has pushed for an outside review or takeover of the case, most successfully in August 2009. Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Henry Lee found fresh evidence after the volunteer group Justice For Joyce paid them to examine Joyce McLain’s body. The Maine attorney general’s office had declined to pursue the exhumation.
“I am happy with them working on it,” Pamela McLain said. “Really, I have been hard, you know? But it’s worth it.”