February 25, 1981, our local Newspaper carried a story about an unidentified body discovered in week old fire rubble the previous day. Mike's father read the story that morning, and with no way of knowing it was our son he left for work. About 10 o'clock a Maine State Police detective arrived at his work requesting dental records. He said the authorities had found a body in a fire and they suspected it might be Mike. The detective was giving this information, but he never came back.
One of Derald's coworkers who also worked part-time at a local funeral home, offered to help us. He told Derald that the body had been identified as Mike (the body hadn’t actually been identified at that time, but we didn’t know it) and that he was informed that the fire was an accident and Mike just didn’t make it out. Mike was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Charles Thomas made arrangements to have Mike transported to the funeral home where he worked. He suggested a cremation would be best since the body was burned beyond recognition.
After the memorial service, I began searching the newspapers for more information about the arson. There was something about Mike's death that didn't feel right to me. The only information we had received was from rumors. The people who set the fire didn't know Mike was there.
February 28-March 1, 1981, a long article by A. Jay Higgins, a reporter at the Bangor Daily News, gave me my first information concerning a DEA drug sting that occurred a few hours before Mike's death. He also told about a February 17, 1981 arson in Bangor where three other people lost their lives. Higgins' article was ten days after the drug sting and Mike's death. Mike's father had read the earlier article on the morning of the 25th that said a man was seen leaving arson area through the woods but it said nothing about a DEA drug bust. In Higgins article reported the DEA drug sting but said nothing about the man seen leaving the area through the woods.
Approximately one month after Mike’s death, while telling a family member that I was suspicious about Mike’s death after what I had read in the newspapers. She said she had been told that Mike was murdered by men from Massachusetts who went to the cottage, knocked Mike unconscious before setting the cottage on fire. It was years later when I brought suit against Paul Pollard and received a Hartford Fire Insurance's report on their investigation of the fire. In it Maine State Police Trooper Ronald Grave was reported to have said that the police thought Mike was knocked unconscious and left in the building to burn.
After being told this, I immediately contacted the Maine State Police (MSP). I was referred to Detective Ralph Pinkham. He told me that Percy Sargent, one of the men arrested in the drug bust sent a call to have Mike taken care of. He said he believed Lionel Cormier set the fire and that Paul Pollard was the man seen fleeing the arson fire. He said Pollard was a half-brother to Lionel Cormier and that Pollard would have died too if he hadn’t escaped. He said when they had more information that he would contact me.
I called the Maine State Police barracks again after a couple of weeks had gone by and I had heard nothing from Pinkham. Pinkham told me to come to District Attorney David Cox's Office in Bangor for this meeting. Mike's attorney had also had Derry and I come to Cox's office to talk to us about Mike's request for help to turn himself in to the authorities. I didn't know at that time that Mike's murder had happened in Hancock county, out of Cox's jurisdiction. The drug bust that occurred a couple of hours before Mike's murder was in Penobscot County, Cox's jurisdiction. I just blindly went to Cox's office for the meetings.
Pinkham had another detective with him by the name of Barry Shuman. Shuman did the talking and he said that there was no new information and they didn’t know who set the fire because no one would talk. I turned to Pinkham and asked him about what he had told me about Lionel Cormier and Percy Sargent. Pinkham looked me in the face and denied what he had told me and Shuman threatened me with charges. He said I could be charged for knowing where my son was and not reporting it. I said if I had known where Mike was I wouldn't have left him lying under a pile of burned fire rubble for six days.
There were other things I would like to have said like why not bring charges against Linda Gray (Mike's girlfriend) for helping him escape from an armed guard and why not bring charges against Percy Sargent for harboring a fugitive but I was too fearful of these men to ask. I left this meeting afraid of the two Maine State Police detectives.
After my meeting with Shuman and Pinkham at District Attorney David Cox’s office, I felt so intimidated that I was hesitant in contacting them again. Before I could get up the courage to call them again, Cox slammed us (Mike's parents) with default on Mike's bail bonds.
May 28, 1981, three months and 4 days after Mike's body was found buried under a pile of six-day old burned fire rubble our local newspaper reported that Penobscot County DA David Cox had started proceedings against us for bonds we had on our murdered son, which was our home. In one article it was reported that Daryl (his name is Derald) Cochran's attorney was Jerome Goldsmith. We had no attorney and had never heard of the man.
DA Cox's default charge against us occurred approximately two months after my meeting with the detectives at Cox's office, and three months after Mike’s murder. Cox didn’t take in to account that Mike did appear in court and was sentenced before he escaped from an armed officer. I had never met Cox and didn’t realize the animosity he had toward me. If I had, I wouldn’t have gone to his office to meet Shuman and Pinkham—and I wouldn’t have gone to his office with my oldest son, Derry, to speak with Mike's attorney about Mike's request for help to turn himself in to the authorities.
We had no attorney, (regardless of the news reporting that we did) but on the date of the court hearing I appeared alone, representing myself (pro se). During the hearing, an attorney stood up and said the state no longer had a case to prosecute, therefore the bail forfeiture should not as high as when Mike was alive. I recognized him as the attorney who had been with Mike's attorney in the hall outside DA Cox’s office when Derry and I went there to speak with Marshal Stern about Mike turning himself in to the law.
I had never spoken with this attorney and didn’t even know his name at the time. Who was he representing? I stood up and asked the judge if I could be allowed to choose my own attorney. Judge Ivan MacInnes agreed and stopped the hearing.
I believe DA Cox's actions was payback for not turning Mike in to him when Derry and I stood in the hall out side his office to speak with Mike’s attorney. I believe that it was not the bonds on my murdered son that caused DA Cox to start default proceedings against Derald and I.
Cox was controlling the investigation of Mike’s murder, regardless of it occurring outside his jurisdiction. But the DEA drug sting that occurred, less than four hours, before Mike was murdered, was within Cox’s jurisdiction. And I believe that Shuman was doing Cox's bidding when he told me I could be charged for knowing Mike’s whereabouts and not reporting it. I also think they were attempting to frighten me away from learning what happened to my son.
An editorial and multiple letters to the editor were published in support of us which infuriated Cox.
I wanted to die with shame when an article hit the newspaper with the heading Cox Says Mother Could Have Saved Son. Cox was accusing me of being responsible for my son’s murder, and it wasn’t a private accusation. It was there for all the pubic to read. Cox said, “If I had cooperated.” Cooperate? Cooperate with whom? Shuman and Pinkham were not prosecutors. I had never spoken with a prosecutor nor had one ever contacted me. No one from the Bangor Police, Brewer Police, Maine State Police, or the Sheriff’s Department had ever contacted me for information concerning Mike’s escape or his whereabouts while he was a fugitive. And I heard absolutely nothing from the authorities after Mike’s murder. I had to contact the Maine State Police in March to try find out what happened to Mike.
Shuman had come to Derald’s place of employment requesting dental records for identification. After he got the information he never came back. No one ever came to tell us what happened the night Mike was murdered. I was left on my own to try search for information on what happened to Mike; and the authorities were making it as difficult as they could for me. It was plain to see that DA Cox had no sympathy for our family’s tragic loss. I thought I was going to lose my mind when DA Cox went public with his remarks that I was complaining about my son’s murder and that I could have saved him. After reading about the case, the Maine Chapter of the ACLU assigned us an attorney and he successfully argued the case against the district attorney's office.
July 1981, I wrote Chief Medical Examiner Henry Ryan asking if Mike had been injured before the fire. In his response, he said “carbon monoxide was identified in the blood of Micheal Cochran. This supported life during the fire, but didn’t necessarily imply consciousness during the fire.” As to whether Mike had been injured, he said, The state of the remains being what they were, the possibility of other injuries is a difficult matter. The severe charring might obscure or eliminate evidence of other injury." He wrote that the fire had been “sufficiently severe that it would take the life of anyone trapped in it." He wrote "please contact me if you have further questions."
My second attempt to contact medical examiner Dr. Henry Ryan was blocked by the Maine Attorney General’s Office and still is yet today. The reason the AG’s office gives for not allowing me to speak with the Ryan is that Mike’s murder is under investigation. But during my 1989 lawsuit against Paul Pollard Ryan told my attorney that “his office did not have very much information on the Cochran murder, because there was not very much information."
Still afraid to contact Pinkham and Shuman, I contacted Fire Inspector Wilbur Ricker. He told me that two men came on the murder scene the morning he found Mike. He didn’t reveal their names; he only said that it didn’t look right to him and that he had turned the information over to Pinkham and Shuman. He said he told them that the two men “need to be looked at” along with the man the fire chief saw fleeing into the woods But the two men were never questioned.
He also told me that someone had broken the outside door window glass to gain entry to the cottage and that Mike was found on top of the clean window glass along with clean flooring under him. He said this indicated that Mike was on the floor before the fire started. I will never forget the pain I felt when he gave me this information. I now had to face the fact that Mike was injured before the fire was set and that the fire was no accident.