PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A judge found a 57-year-old man guilty Thursday of a murder that baffled authorities in Maine for nearly four decades and at one time looked like a cold case that would never be resolved.
Philip Scott Fournier was charged in 2016 with killing 16-year-old Joyce McLain in East Millinocket in 1980. Superior Court Justice Ann Murray issued the verdict in a packed Bangor courtroom.
McLain disappeared while she was out jogging, and her body was found two days later behind the athletic fields of a high school, clothed only in socks and running shoes. She had been beaten to death.
On Thursday, McLain’s mother Pamela McLain expressed relief at the verdict while talking to reporters outside court. She stated that she doesn’t hate Fournier and would meet with his family if they wanted.
“It took 37½ years and you’ll never see a happier mother than this one right here,” she said.
A defense lawyer said during final arguments earlier this month that “doubts will linger” over the case regardless of whether Fournier was convicted. The defense also argued that Fournier’s memories, which were central to the prosecution’s case, were unreliable.
There was no physical evidence tying Fournier to the crime scene, which the attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein, has called unusual for a murder case. But prosecutors said he confessed numerous times over the years, and Murray said Thursday that she considered the confessions to be genuine.
A spokeswoman for Maine Attorney General Janet Mills praised detectives and attorneys who “patiently pursued this case and diligently brought justice to the family and the memory of Joyce McLain,” a spokeswoman said.
Fournier was a person of interest in the case almost from the beginning. The case and trial were complicated by the fact that hours after McLain was last seen, Fournier stole and crashed a fuel truck, suffering a serious head injury.
His defense has contended that Fournier’s head injury affected his memory and played a role in the inconsistency of his many statements about McLain’s death over the years. Murray asserted that Fournier had recovered from the injury after several months.
The case gripped the 1,700-resident mill town community of East Millinocket, located in Maine’s rural, northerly Katahdin region, about 190 miles north of Portland.
Fournier waived his right to a jury trial, leaving Murray to make the decision. Sentencing was not immediately scheduled.