2002-2004
 
A New MSP Detective Is Assigned Mike’s Murder Case
 
Sometime in early 2002, five years after Det. Shuman retired from the Maine State Police, a new homicide detective was assigned Mike’s bungled murder case.
 

 
MSP Detective Gerald Coleman first contacted Mike’s older brother, Derry, about wanting to talk to the family about Mike’s murder. Derry contacted me and said there was a new detective on Mike’s case and that he would like to speak with me. I said no, absolutely not. For 21 years I had gone through hell with the Maine Attorney General’s Ofice and the Maine State Police and had had enough of Maine law oficials. I didn’t trust any of them. But, eventually, I relented and Coleman came to my home to speak with me about Mike’s murder. He told me that there were very few records in Mike’s homicide ile at the Attorney General’s ofice (This was also what Dr. Ryan told Popkin in 1989), and asked if I would allow him to copy what documents I had in my possession concerning Mike’s murder. He said he would copy them and promptly return them to me.
     Along with many documents, I gave Coleman a copy of Cormier’s affidavit (telling how he, Pollard, and Percy Sargent fled the state after Mike’s murder) which Richard Sargent had given to me. I also gave Coleman the two gas cans that were used to pour gas on my son and to burn the cottage. He gave me a receipt for the gas cans that has a date of March 15, 2002. Ricker had the cans for nine years; they were in my possession for twelve years; and it’s now nineteen years since I gave Coleman the gas cans.

Mike’s brother writes a letter to U. S. Senator John Baldacci

On December 2, 2002, Mike’s brother wrote a letter to U. S. Senator John Baldacci  asking for Coleman to be given more time to investigate Mike’s murder:
First let me say thank you so very much for returning my call and giving me a few minutes.
     This is about my brother’s murder, 22 years ago, here in Dedham. It is hard to know where to begin because this is a long, complicated story with many aspects to it. It is also a case with many injustices the least of which is the murderers of my brother going free. It amazes me still to this day that people will ask if I feel that the investigations were inadequate. Mr. Baldacci, doesn’t 22 years without results speak for it[s s]elf?
     We know that in life people make mistakes; unfortunately sometimes people don’t want to admit them. I truly believe that is the case here. Three men were arrested and charged with arson/murder in my brother’s case. Those men were innocent and the case fell apart before trial. The [indictments] were [dismissed]. The lead investigator in the case would never go in the obvious direction of who killed my brother and we believe we know some of the reasons why. That investigator retired and 2 years I knew from the very first time meeting this man that he was a very decent, moral and caring man. His name is Detective Gerald Coleman of the Maine State Police. ... Here are the problems we feel are blocking this case.  
1) Detective Coleman cannot give this investigation the time it deserves because he is always being pulled away due to ongoing current crime.

2) The cold case unit was closed due to lack of funding. Many people involved in this case, including suspects, have moved out of state.

3) Fern LaRochelle has been in the Attorney General’s Office for 20 years being involved with the cold case of these three men. He has been assigned to this case and we feel we need new blood to look at this just as Detective Coleman has.
     Mr. Baldacci, my parents are closing in on seventy years of age [I am now 85]. Their son, Micheal Cochran was murdered and left on the ground for a week, 22 years ago. We want nothing more than you or anyone else would want under these circumstances—justice for our loved one.
     Mike was my kid brother. We grew up with sharing the same room and dreams that boys have. There is a hole, a void in this family and what makes it so very hard is we know [one] person responsible is free and he is a very dangerous man. He was just released from prison after serving 16 years for robbing, torturing, and cutting a man’s ear off. He was transferred to three different prisons due to his violent behavior. What if someone else loses his or her life due to this man?  ...
Detective Coleman’s exact words to me were, Derald, do not give up on me and I will not give up on you.” But he can only do so much himself. ...
     I talked to Detective Coleman’s supervisor a few months ago. Lt. [Denis] Appleton said he didn’t know what he could do but he promised he would get back to me. He has not and I have left 5 different messages. He refuses to return my calls. My question is the same as it has been for 22 years. Why?
     My biggest fear in the past 2 years is that Detective Coleman will be taken off the case. We need Detective Coleman and he needs some help. That is not coming from him that is coming from our family. The only thing left to say at this point Mr. Baldacci is, please!
Letter from Deputy AG William Stokes

On Derry’s birthday, December 10, 2002, Chief of the Criminal Division Deputy Attorney General William Stokes wrote Derry a letter in response to the letter that he had sent to Senator Baldacci:
Dear Mr. Cochran:

Congressman John Baldacci has forwarded to Attorney General Steven Rowe your letter to the Congressman concerning the murder of your brother 22 years ago. Your letter has been referred to me, as I serve as Chief of the Attorney General’s Criminal Division. I am familiar with the case involving your brother’s murder. It continues to be an open investigation and an active one. [Please, God, give me strength!]
     You correctly point out that Detective Coleman has been assigned to this matter and is doing work on this case at the present time. You have specified three “problems” that you feel are “blocking this case.”
     ... As with all unsolved homicides, the investigation will always remain active and open. Detective Coleman will be given sufficient time to devote his work on this case. Nevertheless, you must understand that Detective Coleman cannot be assigned to this case to the exclusion of everything else.
     ... With respect to devoting resources to unsolved homicides, we continue to place a large emphasis on unsolved cases ... Nevertheless, we do not have the resources that we would like to have to devote to cold cases. With respect to people moving out of state, that is an unfortunate part of working on old cases. ... We fully understand the difficulties involved in prosecuting older cases. Part of that is the fact that witnesses move, die, or cannot recall events that happened many years ago. This is a problem we deal with all the time in trying to break unsolved cases.
     You have made specific references to Mr. LaRochelle of this Division. Mr. LaRochelle is one of the most experienced prosecutors in the State of Maine. He is highly respected within the prosecutorial community as well as in law enforcement and by members of the Judiciary. [How about respect for Mr. LaRochelle from members of families with murdered loved ones? No disrespect to the prosecutorial communities, law enforcement, or the Judiciary, but they are not trying to get justice for their loved ones who were murdered.]
     I fully understand your frustration that your brother’s murder remains unsolved. I am sure you understand that from our perspective we may only get one chance to prosecute a case. If we bring a case to trial and we lose, that is the end of it. Thus, there is a significant difference between possibly solving a case in the law enforcement sense and being able to prosecute a case in a court of law. Our preference, of course, is that we may be able to solve and prosecute all murders. Obviously, we have to have reliable and admissible evidence to do that and, at this point, your brother’s murder is not in a posture to be prosecuted.
     I am sure that Detective Coleman, Sergeant Pickering, and Lieutenant Appleton will continue to devote their efforts to solving this case as well as all the other cases for which they are responsible. We obviously hope that someday we may be able to prosecute the person responsible for your brother’s death, but, at this point, we are not able to do that.
     Stokes’s information that Mike’s murder continues to be an open investigation and an active one is what Stokes told Judge Silsby in 1988, when Richard Sargent wanted to present evidence to a grand jury against Pollard and Cormier, 14 years earlier [now 33 years ago]. Nothing had been done on Mike’s murder during those years. Dr. Ryan said there was not much information on the Cochran murder, and he “believed the case was not really under investigation.” That was true in 1989 and is true yet today—nearly 41 years after Mike’s brutal murder.

Coleman is on Cormier’s trail

In September of 2002, after serving only 16 years of his 23-year prison sentence, Lionel Cormier was released from Massachusetts Walpole Prison and Coleman began tracking him. Immediately, Cormier returned to his way of making a living— armed-robbing drug dealers. In the fall of 2003, Coleman traveled to Massachusetts and met with Cormier at his girlfriend’s home. Coleman asked Cormier if he was the author of the affidavit Richard Sargent had given me in 1988. Cormier admitted that he was. He also told Coleman that Mike Cochran was a rat.
     I did not see the newspaper articles in June of 2003 that reported Cormier’s involvement in armed robberies again, because it was not reported in our local newspaper. However, after Coleman made me aware of what was happening with Cormier, I got copies of those articles.
     On June 13, 2003, a newspaper reported that after a night-long manhunt and the temporary closure of a section of a local road, Brunswick police arrested one man believed to be involved in a home invasion early that morning. It was reported that two other suspects remained at-large and the search had expanded to include areas beyond Brunswick. One of the at-large suspects was Cormier. Cormier was described as being about 5’, 10” tall and balding, with a handlebar mustache. The news was asking for anyone with information to call Brunswick police.
     On June 16, it was reported that Cormier was still at-large and an intensive search was being conducted. The police did not believe Cormier was still in the area.
     Two days later, on the 18th, the news again reported that Cormier and two other men were suspected of breaking into a house in Brunswick early Friday morning. Brunswick police, with the assistance of Maine State Police and the Maine Warden Service, conducted an intensive search Friday, but failed to find Cormier, who was described as possibly being armed and dangerous. A Brunswick Police Commander said the department was still seeking leads and had spoken with people who knew Cormier.
     On June 20, the news reported that Cormier had been located. It said he was tracked to his girlfriend’s house in Massachusetts by a Brunswick Police Detective and Coleman. Police were led to the house, in part, due to tips from citizens.
     It was reported that the local police were keeping an eye on Cormier while Maine authorities worked to complete their investigation, obtain an arrest warrant, and address extradition issues. On September 3, it was reported that a revolver and mask were found in the woods near where the home invasion occurred.
     A detective who investigated the invasion said he thought Cormier was one of the most dangerous people he’s seen pass through town in his eight years as a police officer. He said when he interrogated Cormier at his Massachusetts home after the Brunswick break-in that he had trouble sleeping that night.” He said, “He’s got a look when he talks to you.” [Percy Sargent told his brother Richard Sargent, “Cochran I think he kind of felt intimidated by Cormier.”] I was also told that D. A. Almy kept a gun by his bed when he prosecuted Cormier for the armed robberies in 1986.]

My conversations with Det. Coleman

During a conversation with Coleman on October 9, 2003, he said he was not going to present Mike’s murder case to the Attorney General’s office on the 15th of that month again. It was supposed to be presented on September 10, but that was postponed. He claimed there was too much going on.
     Around this time, I was at JC Penney’s in the Bangor Mall when I saw Shuman there (I was told his wife worked there). He didn’t look well. He was carrying an oxygen tank. I turned away and didn’t speak to him. I told Coleman about seeing Shuman and he said Shuman was, in fact, not well, but didn’t say what was wrong.
     In another conversation with Coleman, he told me that he thought they had Cormier on robberies and he would see prison time—I said, “Good news. But that still doesn’t involve Mike’s murder.” He said, “Don’t get discouraged.” Ha! After nearly 23 years [at that time]—don’t get discouraged? It has now been 18 years since that conversation took place, and again, two months short of 41 years since Mike’s brutal murder.
     On October 22, Coleman called, asking for a copy of a photo of Mike holding a raccoon that had been in the BDN on an anniversary of Mike’s murder. He said he couldn’t tell me why, but it could be very important.
     On November 1,  I spoke with Coleman again. We talked about what was happening with Mike’s murder. He said he had a meeting with the Attorney General’s office on October 30 concerning Mike’s case. The meeting was postponed on both September 10 and on October 15 because there were too many things going on. I didn’t know he was presenting it on the 30th. He said he met with both Assistant Attorney Generals—Bill Stokes and Fern LaRochelle—I don’t trust either one of them; I believe they are part of the cover-up in Mike’s murder. He said there would be a meeting with federal prosecutors and other prosecutors. He said something about a new development and permission to work with them. I asked if he was optimistic about something being done on Mike’s murder and he said he was more optimistic before the meeting at the Attorney General’s office. I can believe that. He said something about shady characters cooperating and the Attorney General’s office not being sure if they wanted to use shady characters. I had to laugh. “Shady characters” were all they used in the Dolan robberies and the arson/murder charges against Johnson, Meyers, and Richard Sargent. He told me these people were dangerous people.
     He said I must not repeat what he was going to tell me. “Between you and me, there is a good chance Cormier will be put away for long time or for good.” He said “the story about Mike’s murder is not short,” but he told it all to Stokes and LaRochelle. He said he explained why I got off on the wrong foot with the Attorney General’s office and the police in the beginning.  1
     Coleman said he had to go back and speak with Pollard again. I assumed he was referencing Shuman’s conversations with Pollard in 1981 and 1985. As far as I know, Coleman was never allowed to speak with Pollard. I told him I didn’t think Cormier would ever spend one day in prison for murdering Mike, but it would help if the State of Maine would at least admit they knew that Cormier was involved in Mike’s murder.
     On November 7, 2003, I received an email from Coleman thanking me for the clipping and on November 21, I left a message for Coleman.  On November 23, Coleman responded to my message. I wrote a note saying, great guy! Even if we never get anything done on Mike’s murder, I will always be thankful to Coleman for his earnest effort in trying to bring the men who murdered Mike to justice. He said today, he intends to speak with Pollard (Coleman did speak with Percy Sargent and Lionel Cormier but he never spoke Paul Pollard.) He asked if I had seen the second statement by Pollard. I asked if he meant his February 12, 1985 statement, and he said, “No, there was another one that Matt Stewart did in 1987.” He said it went on and on and he was surprised at what Pollard had to say. He thought Pollard was almost at the point of confessing. (I’ve believed for many years that Shuman obstructed Pollard from telling what happened the morning Mike was murdered.) Coleman said something about talking to other prosecutors. I asked, “What other prosecutors?” and he said he couldn’t tell me. Later on in the conversation, he said something about prosecutors on other cases being involved with men he wanted to speak with. He said there were two men, in particular. Coleman said he’d spoken with one and he knew nothing. The other, he had yet to talk to and Coleman believed he did know things. I think he said he was in Maine State Prison. I asked if it still looked like they were going to be able to put Cormier away and he said yes. I asked if his optimism was still the same about the case. He said, more so now, since he had gotten a call from Bill Stokes. As I mentioned, the last time I spoke with Coleman, he told me that he was less optimistic about Mike’s case after his meeting with Stokes and LaRochelle together.
     I told Coleman that Ricker told me that Pollard, Cormier, and Percy Sargent needed to be looked at, and Coleman said, “That’s where we are today.” I thought of the awful hell I had gone through for so many years while trying to get the State of Maine to look at Pollard, Cormier, and Percy Sargent, and then a new detective on Mike’s murder, more than twenty years later told me “That’s where we are today.” I had begged the State of Maine for a new detective on my son’s murder case during all the years Shuman controlled the investigation of Mike's murder (and he blocked it, I believe, from being solved), but the State refused to remove him. It was only after Shuman retired from the Maine State Police that Coleman was assigned Mike’s murder and could immediately see that Pollard, Cormier, and Percy Sargent killed my son.
     Coleman called on December 22, 2003. I had a hard time understanding what he was trying to tell me—he wasn’t specific. He said the State didn’t know if they wanted to forgive such serious charges to get information on Mike’s murder. I really didn’t know what or who he was talking about. He said, “They are dangerous people.” I first thought he meant Cormier, Percy Sargent, and Pollard, but as he continued to talk, I realized it was some other criminals who had information concerning Mike’s murder. He said one had already given him some information. Something he said really hit a nerve with me. The prosecutors said if those men (Cormier, Percy Sargent, and Pollard) were guilty of Mike’s murder, why didn’t the police know it?  I believe that Maine State Police Detectives Shuman and Pinkham did know it and they worked overtime to cover it up.
     I told Coleman that my youngest son was home for a few days and I had thought about calling him and asking him to come meet Shawn. He said he didn’t know I had another son. I told him Shawn was only nine years old when Mike was murdered and that Mike and Shawn had a close relationship.
     On March 23, 2004, I left a message for Coleman. He called on the 24th. He said, “Hopefully, Cormier will be arrested shortly for break-ins and robberies he has done since he got out of prison.” He had not seen Pollard yet, but still wanted to. He wanted to see Robert Smith first and find out what he could tell him. (Coleman never spoke with Pollard or Smith.) I told him I had gone to South Windham Correctional Center and spoken with Smith and his wife years ago.
     Coleman said, “A guy who has done some dangerous crimes says he has information about Mike’s murder, but wants complete immunity for the information. The State doesn’t want to do that because of the seriousness of the crimes. He may talk anyhow with a reduced sentence.” I said, “Not everyone gets complete immunity and gets away like Paul Pollard.” Coleman said something like “not yet.” I don’t know exactly what that meant. Did he mean that Pollard hadn’t gotten completely away as yet? He said he would like to tell Pollard that Cormier intended to kill him this fall.  2
     On March 30, 2004, Renee Ordway of the BDN staff reported that Shuman retired as security guard at the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department. This was in D. A. Almy’s jurisdiction. Shuman had worked seven years with the Sheriff’s Department after retiring from the MSP in 1997. Ordway said Shuman was calling it quits and heading off to Florida to retire with his wife, Linda Shuman.
     Sometime during the night of March 31, 2004, I had a dream about Shuman. I dreamed I called him and said that I was going to kill him (I have never had thoughts like that). That day Derry talked to Coleman. He told Coleman that he had contacted the BDN and spoken with Ordway about her reporting in her article that all Shuman’s cases were solved when he retired from the Maine State Police, and that she was going to call back for more information. Coleman asked Derry not to do that. The detective said he was going to be taking something to the grand jury on April 17.
     On the morning of April 8, 2004, I spoke with Coleman. I had left a message for him the day before. He apologized for not calling; it was his day off. He said he was going to be presenting evidence to a grand jury on April 13. He didn’t go into detail about it. When I told Coleman that Shuman told the others at the murder scene the day Mike was found that there was no need for the crime lab, Coleman said he “believes the crime lab should have been called.” He said today it wouldn’t be the crime lab. He named something else and said he was part of it.
     He talked about Derry wanting to speak with the news and his concern that he might say something that would give away what was happening “behind the scenes.” We knew he still believed that Cormier, Pollard, and Percy Sargent were guilty. He said if the police were involved in a cover-up of Mike’s death, he would have no problem in saying that.
     On May 14, 2004, Coleman returned my call from the previous day. We had a long conversation. He said, “I still haven’t taken the men to the grand jury. I want to lock something in with them before talking to grand jury.”
     On September 6, I sent an email to Coleman, asking if he could please keep in contact. I said, “I gave you everything I had on Mike’s case, now I only hear from you when I make the contact. I strongly believe the State of Maine will never take care of the brutal death of my son. If this is the case, please stop giving me false hope. It’s now years since you came to my home with the story that you could do something about Mike’s brutal death.” The next day, Coleman responded, “I just spoke to Derald [Derry] and he was also upset with me. Perhaps he could tell you what he and I spoke about? Sorry to disappoint you.”
     The news continued to report on what was happening with Cormier. A September 17, 2004 article by Judy Harrison of the BDN said that Cormier was expected to be arraigned the following week in U. S. District Court on federal drug and gun charges. The article also said Cormier was arrested after being indicted by a federal grand jury in Bangor and that law enforcement officials had been keeping an eye on him since June 13, 2003, when he allegedly participated in the home invasion in Brunswick.
 
 *******
Notes
 
1    I wonder what he explained. In the beginning, I was searching for what happened to Mike and contacted the State Police. Pinkham told me that it was Pollard who was seen fleeing the murder scene, that Percy Sargent send a call to have Mike "taken care of", and that Lionel Cormier set the fire; then later, Pinkham denied it all, and Shuman threatened me. I contacted the Attorney General’s office and spoke with Deputy Attorney General Brannigan. When I told him that Linda Gray had told me that she heard Percy Sargent was bragging that he had Mike killed. He very rudely said, “Rumors, rumors.” What was there to explain about me getting off on the wrong foot? But I already knew I was nothing but a nuisance to the Attorney General’s office and the State Police.
 
2    I wondered, why not until this fall? I didn’t question Coleman, but I thought back to Richard Sargent’s recorded conversation with Cormier in 1986. Richard Sargent told Cormier that he had heard that Pollard was implicating him (Cormier) in Mike’s murder. Cormier’s response was that he had found somebody to “take care of these witnesses [Robert Smith and Paul Pollard] for us, you know.” Cormier went on to say that he was going to give this person his girlfriend’s car, but “needed directions to where Bob lived.” He said he already had Pollard’s address in Augusta. Cormier asked Richard Sargent if he remembered a time that he kicked Pollard out of his car. He said he should have run that MF over because he would only have gotten five years for vehicle homicide and it would have eliminated all this #**t.
 
2005