(NEW YORK) — A registered sex offender was arrested in Maine in connection with the murder of a 16-year-old girl more than 35 years ago.
Philip Fournier was taken into custody Friday after being accused in the beating death of 16-year-old Joyce McLain, Maine State Police said. Fournier, 55, of East Millinocket, Maine, was 19 at the time of the girl’s death.
On the evening of Aug. 8, 1980, Joyce left her home to go jogging and her body was found near a high school two days later, police said.
Maine State Police Col. Robert Williams said Friday there wasn’t one particular piece of evidence that led to Fournier’s recent arrest, but instead it was the “accumulation” of work over the years.
It’s unclear how well Fournier knew the victim, Williams said, but police believe the two were acquainted. McLain’s mother expressed her relief after the arrest.
“I was angry off and on all through the time it took,” Pamela McLain told ABC News on Saturday. “I pushed and pushed for different things. I was a mother that wasn’t going to give up and yesterday, I was glad I was that kind of mother.”
Not long after the teen’s body was found in a wooded area near her home, her skull fractured from a blow to the back of her head, authorities interviewed Fournier. He would be interviewed many times in the ensuing 35 years, Williams said, but an arrest never followed.
Fournier allegedly gave differing accounts to authorities and others over the years, Williams said, some of which were self-incriminating.
“One of the reasons the case progressed slowly is we had to work through what he told us various times,” Williams said.
In one 1989 interview, a pastor told police Fournier came to his church one night several years prior and “confessed to him that he had killed Joyce,” according to a criminal affidavit.
The pastor said that after hearing the confession, he asked Fournier’s parents to come to the church, where their son then told his mother “three times that he had killed Joyce,” according to the affidavit.
“Fournier stated he hit McLain in the back of the head,” the pastor said, according to the affidavit, adding, “Fournier stated he tried to have sex with McClain.”
Fournier’s mother was interviewed in 2014 and she recounted the visit with the pastor similarly, saying her son told her, “I killed Joyce McClain.” She added her son began to cry, saying, “I didn’t mean to,” according to the affidavit.
Williams said on Friday that authorities are “finally at the point where we feel we’re confident that we can prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Fournier was previously convicted of possessing child pornography and is listed as a registered sex offender in Maine. The federal judge who sentenced Fournier in 2009 had urged him to tell authorities anything he knew about McLain’s death, according to The Bangor Daily News.
Fournier was taken to the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor, police said. He has not yet entered a plea and his first court appearance will be Monday. Williams said he did not know if Fournier had an attorney.
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