AUGUSTA – Renowned forensic experts Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Henry Lee found new evidence Friday during their examination of Joyce McLain’s exhumed body that gives state police renewed hope for solving the teenage East Millinocket girl’s 28-year-old homicide.
“Information has been gathered that they [investigators] can immediately work on,” Baden said during a brief press conference held in the parking lot outside the office of the chief medical examiner on Friday afternoon.
“Physical evidence,” Lee added.
Baden and Lee expressed surprise that the body seemed as well preserved as McLain’s coffin and vault were found to be after they were dug up from a Medway cemetery on Thursday. When asked to grade the body’s preservation on a score of 1 to 100, Baden gave it an 85 to 90.
Both declined to say much more, citing the need to keep aspects of the investigation confidential. Neither of the specialists nor state police spoke of imminent arrests or anything so dramatic, and the work is far from over.
Many tests remain that will take weeks to do, Lee said, and any new evidence must fit into an already massive investigation to produce enough probable cause for an arrest – a formidable task.
But the evidence could provide the greatest break in the cold case since the 16-year-old Schenck High School sophomore’s body was found on Aug. 10, 1980, near the East Millinocket school’s soccer fields. She had been beaten to death. McLain was last seen jogging nearby late on Aug. 8.
State police promised that as the tests were proceeding, detectives would be conducting interviews and looking anew for information.
“We really want to solve this case,” said Lt. Jackie Theriault, the case’s supervisor.
“There is someone out there in Maine who knows what happened,” said Stephen McCausland, state police spokesman. He urged anyone with information to call 800-432-7381.
The victim’s mother, Pamela McLain, was thrilled but not surprised at how well things went with the new forensic examination.
“I knew this was all going to be,” she said Friday. “Dr. Baden said, ‘Your God has done well by you.’ That’s what he told me on the phone. She was very, very, very well preserved.
“Pretty neat, huh? I said, ‘Thank you, God,’ first thing,” she added.
After the examination, Joyce McLain’s remains were being returned for burial. Graveside committal services are scheduled for 11 a.m. today at the Grindstone Cemetery in Medway.
Four state police detectives who were each lead investigators in the McLain case at some point over the last 28 years met in Bangor last week to discuss the case and prepare for the arrival of Baden and Lee, McCausland said. East Millinocket Police Chief Garold “Twig” Cramp and his predecessor also attended the meeting.
Baden and Lee arrived in Augusta on Thursday. After meeting with state police investigators to review the case Thursday night, they spent more than seven hours working on Friday before heading home to New York and Connecticut.
As Baden meticulously examined the body in the medical examiner’s autopsy room, Lee and state forensic experts reviewed the physical evidence from the body and grave and from case files in the nearby Maine State Police Crime Lab.
Among the new evidence are letters that were left in the casket at McLain’s funeral, said Lee, who is regarded as one of the world’s top criminologists. He is known for his work on the O.J. Simpson murder case and the rape trial of William Kennedy Smith.
Sod and topsoil from the gravesite also were collected for examination.
Baden, the chief forensic pathologist for New York State Police and host of HBO’s “Autopsy” series, was assisted by Boston forensic neuropathologist Dr. Peter Cummings, a former Millinocket and Dover-Foxcroft resident who volunteered his services.
The two worked elbow to elbow for almost eight hours, Cummings said.
“It was a great day, a very good day,” said Cummings. “We did some good work and found some very interesting things. It was a team effort.”
While Cummings works for the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, he was not there as its representative. Instead, he volunteered his services to Baden because he remembered the profound impact the teenage girl’s death had on the Katahdin region, where he lived as a boy.
State police and forensic specialists welcomed everyone’s efforts, said Dr. Margaret Greenwald, Maine’s chief medical examiner.
“It was great to have new eyes looking at things,” Greenwald said. “That’s always appreciated and helpful.”
Baden and Lee are involved in the McLain case at the request of her mother, Pamela, who occasionally has been sharply critical of the state police investigation.
McLain wrote Baden in November seeking his aid, and a grass-roots Katahdin organization called the Justice for Joyce Committee raised about $20,000 to pay for the exhumation and forensic examination.
McLain said Friday’s results vindicated her, her friends in the Justice For Joyce Committee and all those who contributed to the fundraising campaign.
“I kept this up because there was such a calling from her casket and I knew she wasn’t there, so I had a feeling something was there,” McLain said. “I don’t usually talk God with reporters and TV people because it never gets in [makes the news], but I have had faith, faith, faith. I just knew.
“I went to the cemetery Wednesday night and said, ‘You made it, kid. I am tired of being your voice. I don’t want to talk for you any more. It is time for you to speak.’
“I want everyone to know that I am really psyched over this,” McLain said. “It’s a prayer answered for me, for all of us, really, the whole community and state. It is getting a lot of attention, and everyone deserves to find out who did it.
“This is going to be solved.”