EAST MILLINOCKET — The 33-year-old unsolved homicide of Joyce McLain might soon get some Cold Justice.
Deputy Attorney General William Stokes confirmed Friday that his office and state police are considering turning to the true-life television series to help solve McLain’s 33-year-old homicide.
“We are certainly not ruling it out,” Stokes said Friday. “We want to consider it, discuss it among ourselves, and arrive at a decision. Does it have the potential to help the case? Does it hurt the case? I think the best way to describe it is to say we are considering it.”
Patrick Day, a Rockland resident who was a year behind the 16-year-old McLain at Schenck High School of East Millinocket when she was beaten to death in 1980, suggested enlisting the TV show to Joyce’s mother, Pamela McLain. McLain was very receptive.
State police detectives have completed applications available online to “ Cold Justice, ” a TNT network show that employs former prosecutor Kelly Siegler and crime scene investigator Yolanda McClary to solve old unsolved crimes. They await approval from their supervisors before filing the applications with the show’s producers, Day said.
Day said he hopes they will be allowed to apply, but cautioned that the application won’t guarantee that the show will feature the McLain homicide.
“I think Joyce’s murder changed our town so much,” said Day, 49, a disabled former butler who is recovering from throat cancer. “Once Joyce’s murder hit, everything changed. People didn’t trust each other. They looked at their neighbors differently.
“Until this is resolved,” Day added, “I don’t think the town will ever get over it.”
McLain announced the fruits of Day’s efforts on her Facebook page on Friday morning.
“Prayers, please,” McLain wrote. “God answers prayers. We have the patience, God.”
Joyce McLain was a sophomore at Schenck High School in East Millinocket when she was killed sometime during the night of Aug. 8, 1980, state police have said. She was last seen jogging in her neighborhood. Her bludgeoned body was found on school grounds.
State police have declined to discuss exactly how far their efforts have reached, but they include an exhumation, interstate trips and occasional sweeps through the Katahdin region. They have a dozen suspects, they have said.
The cold case made news most recently when Stokes said that Maine could use a cold-case squad — two or three detectives and a forensic evidence examiner — to complement the efforts of Assistant Attorney General Lara M. Nomani. Nomani handles cold cases full-time, but works with detectives carrying full caseloads. Such cases take back seats to more recent crimes, Stokes said.
At Pamela McLain’s suggestion, state Rep. Steve Stanley of Medway has taken steps to introduce legislation that would permit the AG’s office to reassign cases from state police that are more than five years old to other agencies. The law would also give victims of families a say in where the cases go, McLain has said.
Stokes has said Stanley’s proposal would be impracticable, but that a cold case squad would be helpful. Nomani has about 120 cases, including about 60 from the state police, who with Bangor and Portland police are the only state law enforcement investigators allowed to be primary investigators on homicides.
Stokes said prosecutors and detectives briefly discussed the idea when they met during a cold-case review on Thursday. Stokes’ prosecutors meet with detectives every two months to review all of the state’s cold cases.
Law enforcement officials would need a better understanding of how the show works before deciding whether to apply, Stokes said. Among the questions to answer, Stokes said: Will Siegler and McClary seek total access to the case? What impact might that have on maintaining the chain of evidence as the law requires?
Stokes said it might take a few months to answer those questions. Stokes did not rule out speaking of the idea prior to the next cold-case review.
Day said he mentioned the idea to McLain and state police on Tuesday. Maine State Police Senior Investigator Darryl Peary, whom Day described as the McLain case’s primary investigator, seemed very receptive to the idea. His supervisor, Sgt. Troy Gardner, was less enthusiastic, Day said.
A self-confessed political junkie, Day said he became interested in the McLain case recently and is volunteering to help her. He has helped Stanley with his legislation and hopes to organize meetings with state leaders to gain support for a large reward for information that leads to arrests and convictions, Day said.
“Cold Justice” might play a huge part in that, he said.
“The big thing, they will bring a fresh look into it and they will bring in their own investigators, their own team in, and review it,” Day said. “The unfortunate thing is that there are so many cold cases out there that they are probably bombarded with inquiries.”
Television show involvement doesn’t always produce arrests. The McLain case previously was featured on the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries,” hosted by the late Robert Stack. The show’s involvement vastly increased the number of tips investigators received, police said.