|Body discovered - "Hopefully we will be making an identification the next day or so"
| February 25, 1981, our
local Newspaper carried a story about a
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 told where the records could be found, but he never
One of Derald's coworkers 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's body transported to the funeral home where he worked. He suggested a cremation 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 so far was from the part time mortician and rumors from Derry's friends.
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 about 3 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 the arson area through the woods but it said nothing about a DEA drug bust. In Higgins article he reported the DEA drug sting but said nothing about the man seen leaving the area through the woods.
Mike was murdered
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 my sister, Mae, who lives in Massachusetts called their home the night of Feb. 24, the day Mike was found, and said Linda, Mike's girlfriend, called her and said the police had told her that Mike was murdered by men from Massachusetts who went to the cottage and knocked Mike unconscious before setting the cottage on fire. It was years later when I brought suit against Paul Pollard that I received a Hartford Fire Insurance's report on their investigation of the arson and 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.
I contact Maine State Police
After being told this, I immediately contacted the Maine State Police (MSP). I was referred to Detective Ralph Pinkham. Pinkham told me that Percy Sargent, (one of the men arrested in the drug bust according to Higgins' article) sent a call to have Mike taken care of. I asked him if he knew whether Sargent’s call to have Mike taken care of had anything to do with Percy’s drug arrest. His response was that they didn’t have all the answers as of yet because it was still under investigation.. He also 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.
While waiting to hear from Det. Pinkham, I visited Linda Gray. She told me that she had heard that Percy Sargent was bragging at a party that he had had Mike killed. After being told this, I called the Maine State Police barracks again to speak with Det. Pinkham.
Det. Pinkham denies and Det. Shuman threatens
Pinkham told me to come to District Attorney David Cox's Office in Bangor for this meeting. Derry and I had also gone there in December to talk to Mike's attorney to relay Mike's request for help to turn himself in to the authorities. I didn't know at that time that Mike's murder occurred in Hancock county, out of Cox's jurisdiction. The drug bust that happened 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 meeting.
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 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 fearful of the two Maine State Police detectives.
DA David Cox finds us in default on our murdered son's bail bond
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 charges on our murdered son's bail bond.
May 28, 1981, three months and 4 days after Mike's body was found buried under a six-day old pile of burned fire rubble our local newspaper reported that Penobscot County DA David Cox had started proceedings against us for bonds we had on Mike, 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. (1)
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 Derry to speak with Attorney Marshal Stern 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 Stern about Mike's request.
Neither Derald nor I had ever 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. But that didn't stop requests for payments from Stern's office to Mike's father, stating Derald as party in interest (Derald's name was spelled correctly on the bills). The date of one charge was for May 29, 1981, the day I stood up and stopped the hearing. The statements came every months for one year, ending on February 19, 1982.
In 1981, I believed it was not the bonds on my murdered son that caused DA Cox to start default proceedings against us. I believed it was payback for not turning Mike in to him. But after learning, years later, that DA David Cox was involved in the state police drug sting the morning Mike was murdered, I now believe he was also involved in the cover up of Mike's murder.
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.
DA Cox tells the news mother might have saved son
I wanted to die with shame when an article hit the newspaper with the heading "Cox Says Mother Might 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 visited Derald’s place of employment requesting dental records for identification. After he got that 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 search for information about 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.
I contact chief Medical Examiner for information
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."
I contact Fire Inspector Wilber Ricker for information
Still afraid to contact the detective 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 men were never questioned.
He also told me that someone had broken the window in the outside door 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. The information from others that the arsonists didn't know Mike was there was not true.
|1. I only recently learned what the $10,000 bond for aggravated
assault was for. On the web, I found a State v Cochran case by the Supreme Court
showing that Mike had
appealed a fight he had in a bar on Oct. 4, 1979, his 23rd
Incident happened on 10/4/79 - 3/3/80, 5 months later went to trial, found guilty, 10/20/80 Docket No. CR 80-267 Michael Cochran - Trial - Guilty - Sentenced - Dismiss indictment -1/19/81, 10 months later appeal argued, Feb. 17, 1981, 11 months later appeal denied. 3/13/81, Michael Cochran deceased - Dismiss indictment.
*1000 David M. Cox, Dist. Atty., Gary F. Thorne (orally), Asst. Dist. Atty., Margaret J. Kravchuk, Deputy Dist. Atty., Bangor, for plaintiff.
Lawrence R. Schultz (orally), Richard W. Hall, Ford & Hall, Bangor, for defendant.
On December 6, 1979, Detective Nye informed Detective Michael Hosmer, also of the Bangor Police Department, that Michael Cochran would be coming to the station to see him "in regards to the assault," and Detective Hosmer agreed to see Cochran in Nye's absence.
On voir dire without the jury, Detective Hosmer testified that he did see the defendant at the police station. He stated that, after identifying himself to the defendant as a police officer, he addressed Cochran somewhat in these terms:
*1001 "I understand that you want to get your point across or your side of the story across and what was it what happened down there that night."
In response to the detective's offer to hear the defendant's version of the encounter, Cochran told the officer, so Hosmer testified, that he was at Albie's Bottle Club on the night in question, that he did knock Smith's glasses off, but denied stepping on them. He maintained that he did not start the fracas outside the club, but that it was Smith who made the attack which resulted in injury to himself from Cochran's resistance thereto. ... Of course, he did see Smith, describing the injury as scratches on his nose and a messy lip, which the photograph of the victim undoubtedly depicted.
The court said: .... In the case at bar, unlike in Preston, no warrant had been issued for the defendant's arrest, nor does the evidence indicate that the police were seeking out the defendant for questioning. There was no element of "bearing down" on the defendant as a suspect as there was in the case of the two Preston defendants."