|I write to Judge Donald Alexander
|Shortly after the three men were arrested, I wrote to Judge Alexander to ask him not to allow the
men bail. I told him I believed Sharon Sargent’s story was credible because Mike was murdered approximately three hours after
Percy Sargent’s drug arrest. I said that I didn’t think murderers should be allowed bail.
His response was dated January 4, 1985: “Thank you for your recent letter. I appreciate your concerns and interest in this matter. Obviously I cannot comment on the substance of the issues because of the currently pending case.”
|I call the Bangor Daily News
|Sharon testified in December that “Johnson,
Meyers, and Richard Sargent began talking about their concern that
Cochran informed on Percy and had
turned state’s evidence on them.”
I decided to call BDN investigative reporter A. Jay Higgins. My last contact with Higgins was in 1981 when he wrote articles about DA Cox finding us in default on our murdered son’s bail bond. I wanted to tell him that I believed Sharon Sargent’s story of why Mike was murdered but I wanted it known that Mike was not guilty of being an informant. Mr. Higgins' response was that he couldn’t speak with me about the case because Shuman had contacted him and requested he not print anything about the case for the Cochran family. I had waited nearly four years for someone to be brought to justice for Mike’s murder and now Shuman was using his authority to suppress anything I had to say about my son’s murder. Shuman had not contacted me to say he didn’t want me talking to the news.
After hanging up and thinking about what Shuman was doing I called the Bangor Daily News Office to let them know how unfair I thought it was. I was referred to Kent Ward (BDN columnist). I told Mr. Ward what investigative reporter Higgins had said. “He can’t do that,” was his response. Mr. Ward said he and Mr. Higgins would meet with me at the newspaper office on Main Street in Bangor the next day. Derry and I went to meet with the two men.
Mother denies son was drug informant
The following day, January 11, 1985, Higgins article ran with the headline Mother of Micheal Cochran says son was fingered as drug informant. He began his article by saying “One dealer calls another pusher a ‘rat,’ his girlfriend reiterates the allegation to a friend, and the pusher turns up dead.” This puzzled me. Was he saying that someone called Mike a rat and his girlfriend (Linda Gray) told it to a friend and it cost Mike his life?
Higgins’ referred to drug pushers as a profession to which Percy Sargent was no stranger. His drug record at that time extended over a period of 10 years, from 1971 to 1981. He had been convicted for dealing in marijuana, heroin, cannabis, narcotic drugs, LSD, PCP, and amphetamine. He also had a record for disorderly conduct, willful damage to property, and rape. His conviction for drug trafficking the night Mike was murdered was not on his State Bureau of Identification (SBI)I record when I obtained it.
Higgins reported that I believed Mike was murdered nearly four years ago because “someone fingered him as a drug informant.... She and her son, Derald (Derry), are equally certain that whoever started the rumor is just as responsible for the February 18, 1981 fire that burned the cabin in which Mike’s body was found. ...” Derry and I told the reporters that the state knows Micheal was not the informant. But he lost his life because of an informant.
Higgins went on to say that we had spent the last four years trying to piece together the events that led to Mike’s death and that we believed that Meyers, Johnson, and [Richard] Sargent may be somehow involved in Mike’s death and we believed it is possible that the trio believed that Mike may have given information to the police prior to the Holden drug bust. And if that assumption was correct, we insisted that the men were wrong to believe that Mike was an informant for the police on February 17-18, 1981. Higgins said that we wanted the state to set the record straight on the alleged actions of the late Micheal Cochran. (If Mike was an informant for the police the police would have known where he was.)
State witness accuses Shuman of leading and suggesting in his questioning
March 9-10, 1985, Higgins reported that the state was reconsidering Sharon's role as chief witness (only witness). For three months, the state’s star witness stood by her testimony, but on the weekend of March 9-10, 1985, Higgins reported state attorneys were weighing Sharon Sargent's role as a chief witness.
Higgins said Sharon Sargent had taken a polygraph test and the results were “inconclusive” and that prosecutors had spent two weeks trying to determine the accuracy of her testimony. Higgins’ report said that state’s lone witness had stood by her testimony, but had reportedly changed her story when she met with Marshal Stern, defense attorney for Richard Sargent (and for Mike) in February.
The meeting had been recorded and transcribed. In it Sharon Sargent denied hearing the plans of the three men who had allegedly planned to kill Mike. Stern said Sargent had asked the state to order Shuman to have no contact with her. She said she was afraid of Cpl. Barry Shuman and told Stern that Shuman “had been leading and suggestive in his line of questioning regarding the murder investigation.”
Four days after Sharon's meeting at Mr. Stern's office the attorney took the transcript of the conversation to Justice Donald Alexander and assistant Attorney General Thomas Goodwin. “Sharon Sargent’s recanting of her original testimony presented major problems for the prosecution,” the article stated.
Alexander subsequently ordered the impoundment of the information during the hearing on February 22nd. Shuman was removed from his duties on the case following the hearing, Stern said, but found himself back on it after Sgt. Ralph Pinkham took a supervisory role in the investigation. Shuman denied doing anything wrong.
The article reported that I had become increasingly frustrated by the way the state had handled the case and that I was amazed by the state’s refusal to subpoena an ex-girlfriend (Linda Gray) of the deceased.
As I read the article I had no idea what it meant. I decided to call Shuman to ask him what was happening and why he didn't question Linda Gray, but he hung up on me. I knew he was upset over Higgins Jan. 11, article. So, I was apprehensive about calling him to ask what was happening. Instead, I called Higgins and asked him. He said the charges against the three men were going to be dismissed because the police had fed Sharon Sargent the story she told the grand jury. I was shocked. I strongly believed Sharon Sargent’s story because she was saying that Mike lost his life as a result of Percy Sargent’s drug arrest in the DEA undercover drug sting.
Higgins asked me if I had ever considered the possibility that the police killed Mike. I said I had thought about it (I had already accused a Maine DEA agent of killing Mike) but found it hard to believe that the police were actually responsible for Mike’s murder. He replied, “How about an overzealous cop from another area?” I did later learn that one of the DEA agents on the February 17–18, 1981 drug sting—the night Mike was murdered—was from Connecticut.
State dismisses arson/murder indictments
June of 1985, three months after Higgins March article he ran another article on the case with the heading "State Moves to dismiss Cochran Murder Indictments." When I read Goodwin’s statement that he didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute the case against the three men for Mike’s murder I knew it was all over—stone cold. Goodwin told the news in December of 1984; the day the three men were arrested, that they had developed information from a number of sources, not just one source. I now knew Goodwin had given a false statement to the news. There had never been other sources. The only source Goodwin had was Sharon Sargent, a petty thief, drug user, and a police informant who was on her way to jail when Shuman and Pinkham interviewed her on July 24, 1984.
The weekend of June 14-15, another article by Higgins said 3 charged in Cochran's death were free. "Three Maine men ... experienced freedom for the first time in seven months [December to June is six months] Friday after the state dismissed murder charges against them Thursday. Forced to dismiss its indictments because of insufficient evidence, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Goodwin declared Friday that he would never ‘give up’ on the case. I was devastated and didn't believe him. Goodwin made this statement to the news more than 37 years ago. Apparently he did "give up."