Thursday, April 30, 2015
Augusta – After an emotional public hearing that saw family members of the victims of unsolved homicides in Maine testify, the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary voted unanimously Ought to Pass on LD 1121 “An Act To Fund the Cold Case Homicide Unit in the Department of the Attorney General”. It will next head to the Senate for a vote.
The bill was a tribute to the spirit of bipartisanship in the Maine Legislature as Rep. Karl Ward (R) of Dedham and Sen. Linda Valentino (D) from Saco teamed up to bring this measure forward. Both legislators had their own personal reasons for bringing this bill forward.
Rep. Ward grew up in Medway and attended Schenck High School in 1980 when his schoolmate Joyce McLain was murdered in East Millinocket. Her killer was never brought to justice.
“That day so long ago changed everything for the entire region,” Rep. Ward remembered. “Teens didn’t walk to each other’s houses anymore, doors became locked, the innocence of a small town had been ripped away. That Joyce’s killer has never has never been found meant that this person could be living anywhere.”
Sen. Valentino has also had her life touched by an unsolved homicide. In 1999, the 15 year old daughter of a friend had been murdered. Sixteen years later, her killer has never been brought to justice.
“For more than a decade I have felt helpless and dismayed that there are 120 unsolved murders in Maine; but today, as a Senator, I no longer feel helpless,” said Democratic State Senator Linda Valentino of Saco, a sponsor of the measure. “Law enforcement is now one step closer to being able to take a fresh look at these cases.”
Both Rep. Ward and Sen. Valentino were pleased by the outpouring of bipartisan support at a press conference held in front of the Maine State House earlier today. It was a particular honor to have several family members of the victims of unsolved murders in Maine speak not only at the press conference, but also tell their heartbreaking stories during the public hearing. Among them, Trista Reynolds, mother of 18 month old Ayla Reynolds who went missing in 2011 and is presumed murdered by police.
Ramona Torres: Mother of Angel Torres,21, who police believe was a victim of foul play after he disappeared on Mother’s Day of 1999, but have no body and no crime scene.
Lise Ouellette: Mother of Ashley Ouellette, 15, whose body was discovered on the side of the road in Scarborough 15 years ago. No one has been charged in her murder.
The next hurdle for legislators will be to find the funding needed for the cold case unit to become a reality.
“We owe it to the victims, the families, and the public to make this a priority. As a member of the state’s budget writing committee, I fight to make sure the funding is included in the current budget we are working on.”
“We owe it to these families to do all we can to provide them with closure they deserve,” added Rep. Ward. “There are more than 130 current unsolved homicides in Maine. These happened in every county. These are not just in southern Maine. Not just northern Maine. It’s happened all over Maine. Now it’s our responsibility to give law enforcement every tool to bring these killers to justice and let these families have some peace.”