EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Country Diner was packed with customers when the jolting news flowed over social media Friday: Maine State Police made an arrest in the nearly 36-year-old Joyce McLain homicide case.

As thrilled as diner owner Christy Deloge was, she also was worried. Her newest waitress is 32-year-old Joyce McLain Bouchard, McLain’s niece, who just started her shift at the Medway restaurant.

“I didn’t want her finding out about it in the middle of the dining room,” Deloge said.

[MORE: Read more about the McLain cold case here]

Deloge took Bouchard into a back room to break the news.

“I honestly have no words to describe [what I was] feeling,” Bouchard said. “I have prayed for this day as long as I can remember. This is something I have wanted my whole life.”

Many residents similarly were rocked by news of the arrest, according to Mark Scally, chairman of the town’s Board of Selectmen. Coming two days after the death of Capt. Peter Larlee, a well-liked firefighter who also discovered McLain’s body, townspeople already have experienced a rocky week, Scally said.

[MORE: More than 30 years later, search for evidence continues]

“I went through the town, and this place was just abuzz,” Scally said. “This took all of us by surprise. No one knew this was coming.”

Joyce McLain’s mother, Pamela McLain, declined to comment but was “all smiles” Friday, said Greylen Hale, Joyce McLain’s uncle.

Scally and Hale said it was common knowledge around town that the East Millinocket man arrested Friday, 55-year-old Philip Scott Fournier, had confessed to police several times in the decades that passed since McLain’s body was found Aug. 10, 1980.

[MORE: Joyce McLain’s mother sought FBI’s help]

Hale said he figured police never arrested Fournier before Friday because “his medical condition and the injuries he suffered made it so that police did not know if they should trust what he said.”

Fournier suffered a skull fracture when he crashed an oil truck he had stolen on the night of McLain’s disappearance. He was in a coma for eight days, police said.

“You have to wonder what’s happened all of a sudden,” Scally said.

The 14-page affidavit detailing the murder charge against Fournier doesn’t indicate any new evidence gleaned in recent years. The freshest information apparently comes from an interview with Fournier’s mother conducted in 2014, in which she said he confessed to the murder in the 1980s.

State police said new forensic evidence that shed light on the homicide was found when McLain’s body was re-examined in 2008.

[MORE: 2008 autopsy revealed new evidence]

Suspicion of Fournier’s involvement was questionable because police investigated 12 to 14 people in connection with the case. Scally and Deloge said a cloud of suspicion has hung over the town and several individuals since the homicide.

“How we raised our kids is based on what happened,” Deloge said. “There were always innuendos on who did what.”

“Everyone had suspicions,” Scally said.

“There is an undercurrent of feeling here” that more than one person participated in the McLain homicide, he added. “People are still wondering about that.”

According to the affidavit, Fournier named at least five men allegedly involved in the homicide during interviews with police. At various times he claimed to be a witness or a forced participant. The Bangor Daily News is not releasing the names of the other men because they have not been charged with a crime.

The chief of the state police, Col. Robert Williams, said Friday the investigation remains open and more arrests are possible.

So many possible suspects have been identified through the years, Scally said, that residents “want the questions to stop. They want to know the answers.”

“There is also an undercurrent of let’s hope it [the arrest] is right. Our faith is that [investigators] have done their due diligence and justice has finally been served,” Scally said.

“It has taken a long time.”