January 8, 1990

FIRE MARSHAL WILBUR RICKER’S DEPOSITION

Mr. Popkin: “I want to start at the beginning of what you remember about that Lucerne fire in February 1981.”
     “Well, sometime in the early morning hours between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning, I received a telephone call at my home, and I don’t remember for sure who called me, but it was from the directions of Norm Herrin the Fire Chief, and said he had a fire at Lucerne   and requested my presence as soon as possible. And I started to pick up, get my things together, get both eyes open the telephone rang again. That was a call from my boss Mr. Bissette in Augusta and he told me that he wanted me to come to Bangor immediately because they had a fatal fire with at least two dead and wanted me to report up here.”  2
    “So I had to come right by Lucerne, so I went in there and found Norm Herrin and his firemen at the scene. ... I’ve worked with Norm over the years, and I knew when he called me, he wanted me. ... As I drove up to the scene there was fire equipment, there was several men. The first thing I can remember is Norman coming over to me. ... [he] told me that he was glad I was there, and he showed me two, five gallon gas cans, and I noticed that the building was burned pretty well. The walls were laying out ... the firemen were still putting some water on it. ... There was no more structural burning, I don’t think, that took place after I got there. ... I was trying to find out what I could and follow my boss’s instructions and get to Bangor to the fatal fire.

Ricker Investigated thousands of fires

Attorney Michael Popkin asked Inspector Ricker: “Over these 40 years that you investigated fires, could you give us any kind of estimate of how many fires you’ve investigated?”
     “I wouldn’t dare to estimate. I’ve always answered within the thousands.”
     “And have you testified as an expert witness in criminal prosecutions in the State of Maine.”
     “I have.”
     “Can you give us any idea of about how many times you qualified as an expert under those circumstances?”
     “No. It would be hundreds because some years it might be 10 or 12 a year, sometimes might only be 3 or 4, but over that period of time it’s a lot of them.”

Pollard's tracks showed a left and right boot impression

“Norman pointed out that he’d seen somebody run from the scene. He showed me where, and I remember a little clearer on that because there was snow on the ground, not deep snow but plenty enough for tracking purposes, and he showed me a set of tracks leading, almost east, I believe, in compass direction or southeast, beyond the building heading out through the woods and then he pointed where he’d seen this something run and—or go and I went along looking at the tracks and I had a pair of Herman Survivors boots that were issued by the state, and I recall clearly of standing aside and make my print and look at that. ... I’m trying just to get an idea of the size.” Ricker said that the tracks were “very clear” and that he was “very clear, very sure” that there were “two boot prints, a left and a right impression and that there was nothing odd about them.”    3

Ricker turned tracks over to Deputy Sheriff Elmer Alto  

“... And there was a deputy sheriff, whether he got there before me or not, but I know he arrived, by the name of [Elmer] Alto. I know him pretty well. And I explained to him I had to get to Bangor, you know, I was up against it. The boss had sent me up here, and I knew we had fatal fires and here we’ve got a burned building with a fellow running from it. To be sure it needed investigation and looked bad to me, but priorities you had to take. “... I originally followed the tracks a considerable distance before I turned them over to Alto. It was practically a straight path right beyond the building, right beyond that garage, right straight out ... there was either a rock or a mound of snow I remember. ...and it come to that and it turned left, and I went just far enough to see it didn’t go around it, but it continued off to my left, which would be my opinion it’s out towards the main road.”   4

No investigation

Mr. Popkin asked, “In terms of what we are looking at here today and what comprises the fire marshal’s file, was there any investigation material besides Trooper Jamison’s log—that is not here today?”
     “I don't recall any investigation—you mean done by the state police or other agency?”
     “What I mean is materials that would be factual materials that might be pertinent to your opinions.”
     “The chemist report where they check the fingerprints—I was present when that was done. My daily reports that I made out every day—I destroyed after the statute of limitations run out on us, and when I checked Augusta, which I really wanted to get, they’d thrown their copies away after five years.   5
     I thought if I could get those, I’d have just like a diary of my day’s work, and they’re gone. So outside of these reports I’m licked that way.”

First visit to the arson/murder scene

"Now, going back to that first visit to the scene on the 18th of February in 1981, after you followed the tracks, what did you do next?
     “... I asked [Elmer Alto] being a Hancock County deputy, if he would take my place and follow those tracks and see what he could do with them because I had to go to Bangor. ...He was assistant fire chief and deputy for years. I asked him if he would—where I had to go to Bangor—would he continue on those tracks and see if he could find where they led to or get any information for me. [I don’t] recall anything else that night except seeing the general debris, the way the building had opened up and fell right out with the sides in all directions, and of course, the gasoline cans that he showed me, I checked and I asked Norman if he would take care of those because I didn’t want to take them with me, and I’d pick them up— get back whenever I could and asked him when the fire was cleaned up, to leave the scene alone and I’d come back and do what I could.” “After we got clear on the fire scene in Bangor [evening of February 18th]. [MSP Cpl. Allen] Jamison was with me.”   6
“We went down, and it was really too dark to really see much and I got the cans from Norman.”

Mike's girlfriend at arson/murder scene

“And another night that I went down by, it was too dark, and I found an automobile down there. I did turn the information between us over to the state police after we found the body, and that belonged to a lady friend, I guess,   7

Reasons for calling it arson

Ricker said his opinion that the fire was arson “was based on what I saw on the scene of the building opened up and the sides fell out. It indicates a terrible fuel load in the building. Then I took into consideration the gas cans sitting outside, somebody running from the scene of a burning building. There’s no other conclusion at that time. Usually [when the] fire department comes they run to them—they don’t run away from them.”
     Defense attorney Marvin Glazier loudly responded, “Objection! Objection!” Mr. Ricker just looked at him and laughed.

Heavy fuel load

Popkin asked Ricker to explain why walls falling out were an indication of a considerable fast burning fuel load inside a building.
     “If you’ve got a heavy fuel load in the building, and it could be anything that’s terribly flammable, it will make an awful hot fire. It sets it all over, and especially up high and goes right out through the roof and burns off your column beams and columns that go across and the supports so that your walls just drop out like that.” [Indicating how logs would fall]

Ricker starts his investigation six-days after arson

Inspector Ricker said that the 24th of February was the first day that he and Cpl. Allen Jamison returned to the Dedham murder scene to investigate the arson. “[I]t was a little while before noon because we met in Ellsworth, I think, and talked it over; and I think we made some telephone calls and tried to get a hold of [Elmer] Alto and get his report and see what he found out, and then we drove up.”   8   

Doors locked in open position

“It certainly would be the first chance that I had to get the dimensions of the building which we would for any report, general outline of it. ... We drew that out, and then begin to photograph usually around the area and just come to anything that might help us on the investigation, around the outside or the inside or anywhere in the building, and that was what I was starting to do. I remember I found—if you’re familiar, of course, with the combination doors. They have a hydraulic opener, and there’s a little piece that slides on it; you can lock it and leave it open if you’re going in and out of it, and several times I found those where they had left that open for some reason or other to set a fire. ...I found that out in front with the lock open, and there’s no way it could do it itself. ...Just like a shock absorber only when you pull it out, you slip a piece over and it will hold it open if you’re lugging your groceries in the house, you’ve got your hands full and you’re going to make two or three trips, you don’t want to try to open the door. It was laid out by the step open. The door was melted, aluminum door was just laying there.”

Ricker and State Police Trp. Allen Jamison discover Mike's body

“The next thing that I was curious about when I found that was, what about the inside door. So I went over and looked for the hinges, because when a building burns as a rule they don’t change. They’re either open or closed, you know, look for the hardware locks, tell whether the building was locked or open. ... I was down there right in the corner looking for those hinges when moving stuff trying to hunt real close there when I found what I thought first was a dog in the fire, and I said to Allen, I said, ‘did we have any reports of a dog in this house?’ and he turned to me and he said, ‘Well, if it’s a dog, he’s got a human head and skeleton.’ [My son, my son Mike!!] Then I made it out. It was right there. The head was almost under my feet where I was working.”    9
     "I immediately talked with Allen. I says, ‘Look, we’ve got problems. We don’t want TV reporters, and we don’t want a crowd here.’ I said, ‘Let’s stay off the radio.’ I said, ‘You take my car and go down to Norm’s house, which is just down the road, and get to the telephone and I’ll stay here and watch the scene and take my pictures.
     “The door stoop come into that sun porch on the front of the building, and the body was right near where the door swung with the head laying at little bit of an angle off here face down, and we measured it. I think Allen’s report shows it less than a foot, 5, 6, 7, 8 inches, something, right from the corner of this sill laying face down back that way. ... There was a place it looked to me as though an animal, a dog, had pulled the knee, the back of the leg up a little bit and that’s really what I saw first was what it looked like [My son Mike!] ... I observed this body was burned right into the— “I hate to go through this with his mother here.”
     I said, “I can go out.”
     Ricker said, “What?”
     I said again to that dear old man, “I will go out.”
     “I really think you might be more comfortable, and perhaps it would make me feel comfortable too.”   10
     Mr. Popkin said, “I would just like the record to reflect that he’s speaking to Mrs. Cochran. He feels more comfortable in testifying if she’s not present.”
     “You know, sometimes I think I know better for people than they do themselves. I’ve been through some of these myself.”  11
     Ricker continued, “I observed this body was terribly burned ...”   12
     “After it was picked up at the scene, it was very clear to me that this body was on the floor prior to the fire because it was all clean, this square tile [flooring]. It was oh, a whitish buff color, and there was broken glass laying and no sign of fire at all, so I observed this at the time.”    13

An accelerant poured on Mike

“But it looked to me like altogether too much heat for a one-story building burning down. If there had been a cellar and the body had gone down in and you had like a forge or a shop of red coals that stayed there and he was in it, why it would practically, you know, you’d find him all right, but it was worse, but this was quite bad for that. It struck me there had to be more than that porch burning down on it to do it. ... It would appear to me that there was more heat than there should have been from a building burning, yes. It could have been any type of accelerant on it. ... Basing it on everything I know about it, I think it’s more likely that there was something added to the body to cause that amount of damage, more than the building.”
     Popkin asked, “Well, in layman’s terms, are you saying that you think that it’s likely that someone poured some gasoline on this body?”   14
     “Yes. Well, actually, I do believe it, yes ... Some of them I’ve known that was poured on them, and it compares more to those than those that were just burned in a building. Yes, it did. ... If it falls in a burning pile of embers and they don’t extinguish it, that gets hot enough to melt iron stoves ... this was not in the cellar. It was on the floor that wasn’t burned under it, and if it had been a long-term fire, it should have burned under the floor more. You know, say the fire department didn’t come and that burned till morning, that floor wouldn’t have been clear under it. It would have eaten underneath after a while and that makes quite a difference whether the firemen extinguished it or not.”

Ricker identifies gas cans

Mr. Popkin asked Mr. Ricker what else he observed at the scene, and he started to explain when he remembered me and said, “Mrs. Cochran may want to come back in now.” After I returned to the deposition room Mr. Ricker identified Deposition Exhibit #15 & #16 as the two gas cans he took from the arson-murder scene.
     “[S]ometimes they withhold stuff at the lab for a few days, and then notify us to pick it up; and without my daily reports, I can’t be sure of it. They either come home with me or I picked them up over to Augusta later, but they were over there on the 19th and fingerprinted and samples taken out of them. They came back and been in my barn ever since.”   15

Ricker found a third gas can under back door

Ricker said after Cpl. Jamison had gone to Herrin’s to use the telephone, that he took his camera and started around the building “taking the views of the building and the road and the inside of what I found—and when I got down on the back of the building, I noticed another gas can which I have a picture of.... It was on the back of the building down below the door which had no stairs or anything to it ... it was close to what in my opinion was the doorway out and no stairs ... it would be like you had it there already to set in or you reached down and dropped it out or whatever.”  16

Vapor explosion


“As I walked around the building, of course, there was no windows left. I mean, they had either broken out or fallen out, but I did find glass several places that was clean white glass apparently broken window glass as well as that that was under the body, and there was no sign that there had been any fire prior to it.... if you get a fire in a house you build up heat to blow it out from a heat blast, it puts a film on it, just like it would color up your walls, before it would break ... But when they’re broken prior to any heat or fire, they’re clean glass, and those come out in a whole section usually if it’s a blast from LP or gasoline fumes. ... I’ve had a whole window blown out quite a few feet right in the frame and be there ... as I remember distinctly now, it was on both the driveway side ... which I remember I showed to Detective Shuman, I guess, that morning, either he or Sergeant Pinkham. And then there was more on the opposite side, which would be toward that garage, and that seemed to be the same way over there which the firemen fought hard to save that other building,  17 but the glass would have gone back in if they’d done it. It wouldn’t have been on the outside and that was clean, too.”  18
     Popkin said, “Based on what you observed with the windows there, and the other observations you made, the walls falling out and whatnot and anything else that you want to add, do you have an opinion as to whether or not there was a vapor explosion at the commencement of this fire?”
     “My opinion—there was a good chance that there was one, from what I found there.”   19

 Ricker describes his photos   20

“I’d like to basically run through the photographs. And at this point maybe Mrs. Cochran would like to leave again,” opkin said.
     After I left the deposition room, Mr. Ricker described the photos he had taken of my dear son’s burned body with missing body parts. I was out of the deposition room much longer than the first time, before Attorney Popkin came to get me.

Lionel Cormier & Percy Sargent arrive at murder scene

 “Now, Bill, after you sent Corporal Jamison to make the phone call and you observed the glass and observed the body, what happened next?”
     “While [Jamison] was gone I heard an automobile coming. I was down by that picture I showed you of the can [by the back door]. ... I was taking that photo, I remember down in there, so I thought it was kind of quick for them to come back, so I said I guess I’ll wait a minute, and I stayed down behind there, and I heard a car stop out front. It was noisier than mine. So I walked up around in back of the building which was standing, the garage, stayed behind that and I saw two subjects get out of an old car and start walking up the walk and come up to the door.   21
     I let them get perhaps from here to that wall, and I didn’t want them to stay and I didn’t want them to know what I’d found, and so I just stepped right out from behind the [garage] in uniform, and they looked like two deer got caught under a jack lantern or something, and they kind of froze there and all I had was the piece of a film case and my pen. Everything was in the car. So I went over and asked them for identification, and I didn’t think they needed one of me. I was right in uniform, fire marshal’s uniform, and they gave me their names which I wrote on there. I just told them I was investigating a fire and I asked them what they were doing and—they just heard about the fire and they come up to look, and this was six days later, and so I asked them for identification, and they told me that they were Lionel Cormier ... and the other one was Percy Sargent from Monroe Road, Winterport.”   22
     Ricker said he asked what they were there for and Cormier said “he was coming because he left a pair of skis. And I says, ‘Well, obviously if you did, you know, they’re gone.’ ... and so I asked Sargent, I said, ‘You didn’t stay here and do work here or something.’ He said, ‘I done a little work, but I didn’t stay here. But he says, ‘I’ve been here to a party or two and I knew the owner.’ As I say, I wanted to get rid of them before the crew came back and I still wanted to identify them. There was no plate on the front of the car, so I thought, ‘well, I’ll get that when they turn around’ and boy, they got in the car, shoo, right down backwards, and I never did get the plate number. ... but they indicated to me they just come up to look around.... I wanted to turn this information over to them when somebody came, because it didn’t look right to me.”
     Sargent lied to Ricker. He had been staying in the cottage and had left it at 11:45 p.m. for his drug deal on the evening of February 17, about 4 hours before Mike’s murder. Maine State Police Homicide Detective Shuman never questioned the two men. But in an October 16, 1984 interview with police informant, David Harriman, Shuman told Harriman that “a week after the fire at the camp, Dickie Sargent and this other guy, I’ll think of his name in a minute showed up while the Fire Marshall was there, when he was there.” (Shuman falsely named Richard Sargent as one of the men Inspector Ricker caught at the murder scene and pretended like he had forgotten Lionel Cormier’s name.)

Maine DEA agents arrive at murder scene

Ricker was asked what he remembered next and he said the next thing would be when Norm Herrin and [MSP Allen] Jamison came back and they brought rope back, ... and then the next one I think was Shuman ... I think I found the body like 11, 12 o’clock, and then between 12 and 1 when Shuman got there, then Pinkham, and the officer over here from the drug unit in Bangor—Captain Clark, I think, was his title from the drug unit—they came, and then I guess Whynott himself came, and then Whynott and I left to go call for the medical examiner.”
     “Was any other evidence found while you were there?”
     “We talked about the glass. In fact, I explained to Shuman that there was this white glass. I says, ‘It looks to me like there was no question that it was blown out of the building.’ And then after they moved the body, I think it was right then anyway that I saw that clean floor. I know I discussed it with them. They [Pinkham and Shuman] said it may have been later that they talked about it”   23

Ricker was willing to fight over Shuman & Pinkham saying Mike fell down from his bed

“[T]hey [Shuman and Pinkham] said the body was up in bed and fell down from his bed upstairs—he never got out of bed. I was willing to fight over that. I told him that there was no way. He was on the floor before the fire started. He wasn’t upstairs.” 24

Ricker and Herrin asked to help find a gun

“Did they find a gun on that occasion?” inquired Popkin.
     “Not at that time. I’m not sure of the date without my notes. I got a call from Sergeant Pinkham and he wanted to know if I would come up and help them find a gun from the fire. He said I’ve got a front-end loader coming.”  25
     Attorney Glazier objected to the hearsay testimony. Attorney Popkin started to explain Glazier’s objection to Mr. Ricker’s statement when Glazier cut him off and said, “He’s been in Court more than you and I have.” Mr. Ricker laughed.
     “I said if you leave your damn front end loader out of there, I’ll find your gun for you—if there’s one in there—and we got up to the scene and Norm Herrin was up there and I was there and, of course, I think Shuman was there too. I’m not sure about him but there was somebody else from the lab.”  26
     “And of course they didn’t tell me that they had information from somewhere else where the gun would be to help a little bit, but anyway I knew there was no cellar, I could find a gun, found things smaller than that in a fire. So I told Norm Herrin, I said, we’ve got a gun in here allegedly. Let’s have a look. I started out down one section of the building and Norm turned, he said, ‘I got it’, and I turned around. He had it in his hand. I said, ‘Where did you find it?’ and he says, ‘It was leaning right against the wall here’. I can show on the diagram where it was. I didn’t notice where Norm went, but I started in looking more in the vicinity of the body, which seemed to be a natural place if there’s a gun under the circumstances, I would look. And Norm was right about opposite the fireplace, and he had it in his hand, but he turned around and showed it to me. It was leaning right against cement blocks, muzzle up against the wall. So obviously somebody, between the time this happened [February 18th] and that time [March 5th], had picked it up and stood it up there. Where it came from—but it sure had been through the fire.”
     “It was leaning right against cement blocks, muzzle up against the wall. So obviously somebody, between the time this happened [February 18th] and that time [March 5th], had picked it up and stood it up there.”   27
     “You couldn’t open it. It was a bolt action gun. They said it was a .22, it wasn’t. It was a 177. I told them Remington only made a few of them. You ought to be able to trace it. Of course, I’m a little critical, but they got over on the wall and tried to beat it open and see. I told them, I said, ‘look, if there’s a shell in there and you open it, you can tell whether it was fired from the firing pin or whether the heat done it’. It was bang, bang, bang."  [Mr. Ricker pounded his fist on the table in front of him indicating] "and I shook my head and left.”    28

Ricker not allowed to investigate the arson

“Now, on the 24th, the day the body was found, you stayed there till dark and at that point you still had an open arson investigation on this particular event?"
     “I felt I did at that time, yes.”
     “When did you cease to actually actively investigate this?”
     “Well, I worked these quite a few times before and what I’ve always done is once I found out they had a body and it was a suspected homicide, I would cooperate with them. They led the investigation, and I would do what they asked me to without butting in, and they usually, you know, in most cases worked with me on the fire end of it. So we had a meeting the next morning [February 25, 1981] up to the Lucerne fire station. Fire Marshal come over from Augusta, Bissette. I know Manduca who was the sergeant from the State Police, but he was just assigned to just supervise the state policemen that worked with us. And [Cpl. Allan] Jamison was there with me, and Norm Herrin was there,  29  and [Elmer] Alto the deputy that followed the tracks was there. I think Pinkham and Jamison both were there. Anyway there were state police representatives there. And after we thrashed it around a little bit, Alto was going to get his part ready for them. I was going to see that they got my report, and at that time they said, well, from now on we’ll call this a homicide, and they have charge of it. ... I interpret it from then on it was up to them, unless they asked me to do something.”
     “You said they called you up once and you went up when they wanted to find a gun. Now, after that did they ever call up and ask your opinion about anything to do with this particular fire?”
     “Not that I recall.”
     “Were you aware that three people were indicted for this in 198[4]?”
     “I read it in the newspaper.”
     “At the time of those indictments did anyone from the state police contact you?”
     “No.”
     “No call, no discussion whatsoever with anyone?”
     “No.”

Ricker disputes Pollard’s story of hearing rafters falling

“I would like you to assume ... that someone is in that building and hears the rafters falling, okay. Is it possible in your opinion to get in and out of that building once the rafters are falling?”
     “I would question even getting out, let alone getting back in. ... If you had enough fire to drop a rafter, you would have a temperature that you wouldn’t take more than one breath, probably one good deep breath and you would go down just like you were in an operating room.”
     “I hate to sort of reinvent the wheel and belabor the obvious, but what are you saying? If the rafters are falling, is it likely that someone can get out of that building?”     “Not without protective clothing.”
     “If the rafters are falling, is it likely they can get back in and out again?”
     “A building that size, I would think it would be impossible.”
     “Okay. Let’s start with a completely different assumption. Forget anything about the rafters now, for the purpose of this hypothetical question, which is that the fire is out through the roof, the inside of the walls are—to an outside observer—fully involved with flames. At that point can anyone get in and out of that building within ten minutes of that observation?”
     “My opinion would be no, not that building.”   30
     “Let’s go back to the rafters falling. What is the problem with getting out once the rafters are falling? What’s the basis for your opinion?”
     “I’m basing it on the fact that if those rafters are going to fall, they’ve got to burn off, to fall. They’re going to burn where they are, until they’re practically burned off, and on wood of that type and that big [the logs were 6 inches to 10 or 12 inches in diameter], there’s only two ways you’re going to have it happen. You’re either going to have it happen from a fire that burned a long while in a small place, which is possible in some conditions, or you had a hot fire with a lot of flammable material to drive that temperature up quick. That’s the only two ways you’re going to do it.”
     “Which way did this building burn?”
     “My opinion it would be from the hot fire, all the evidence that I’ve seen. You’ve got smoke and heat both, and a human being isn’t going to take either one, very brief. The high temperature will kill him quicker than the smoke will.”
     “Now, what about the opinion regarding getting in and out of a building within ten minutes once the fire’s out through the roof and the inside walls are totally involved, what’s your basis for stating that?
     “Because the temperature in the building is certainly going to be up where you couldn’t breathe it.”

Found hinges, explosion and no steps to back door - Attorney Glazier

“Have you ever seen the autopsy report that was performed—if one was performed?”
     “On this one I haven’t. I’ve seen all kinds of them. I’ve attended them. I’ve watched them. I’m familiar with them—but not this one.”
     Mr. Ricker asked Attorney Glazier, “Could you move down one more chair. I’m not going to hit you. I want to hear you before I answer you.” 31
     “You also told us that you were looking for the hinges on the door. ... Did you ever go back to look for those?”
     “Oh, I found them. They were laying down there, but they were in the open position—the door burned away.”    32
     “So would you expect in a very hot fire that there would be some immediate explosions?”
     “If what I saw there, if my opinion is correct, which I wouldn’t say so if I didn’t think so, I would expect it to have been an explosion before there was any fire. Simultaneously that there would have been a fire and explosion together would be what I would expect. To set any amount of fire you have to have a trailer. You might see the fire burning before it got to the trailer to go in and touch off your vapors.
     “Are you saying there were steps to the back door?”
     “No, there were no steps. It was just a door open up on the building, and you opened it up and there you had 4 feet down.”  33

Fire started with a gas trailer - Michael Popkin

     “You’ve talked several times about the mechanism of what you called a trailer, something about starting a fire with a trailer. Could you explain for the record what you mean by that?”
     “I mean it’s a trailer for the fire to be ignited at this point A and go to B where you got your main fuel load for your main fire.”
     “In arson investigations, is that a method of setting fires that you’ve run across?”
     “Many times, especially when they use gasoline or some quick burning fuel.”
     “Did any area of this camp disclose to your investigation an area where there had been a slow burn before rather than, you know, a general hot burn?
”    “No, I didn’t see any evidence of it, no, what was left there.”
     “Now, you said that you knew there was a back door there because you saw a door stool or something?”
     “No, a door sill. The only reason I took the picture was to show the can—because I wanted a picture of the can, because I wasn’t going to take it. It was out back and it was close to what in my opinion was the doorway out and no stairs.”

Gas can was close to back door - Attorney Glazer

“Can you tell us how close it was to the door?”
     “No, but it was close to it, my recollection was very close. It would be like you had it there already to set in or you reached down and dropped it out or whatever.”
         
 ********
NOTES 1-33
 
Lucerne Lake and Phillips Lake are the same lake. They are in the Lucerne-in-Maine area and are all located in the town of Dedham.   1 
 
According to the Bangor Daily News fire fighters responded to the Bangor fire at 9:10 p.m., the previous evening, February 17, 1981, and the fire had been extinguished shortly after midnight, three or four hours before Ricker got the call from his boss to by-pass the Dedham arson. I question why the urgency to have Ricker by-pass the raging Phillips Lake arson for the extinguished Bangor fire at 4 a.m. in the morning. Did the city of Bangor not have fire inspectors?
     I met Mr. Ricker at his home in 1981 and he told me that the Lucerne fire was within his jurisdiction but he was pulled off and sent to Bangor. He said if I revealed what he told me he could possibly lose his job. As long as he lived, I never revealed this.     2
 
This disputes Pollard’s March 3, 1981 statement of what he told MSP Det. Herbert Barry Shuman: “On the way out he dropped a boot, tried to find it, but the heat was too intense, so he jumped out the back door again. He put on socks and the one boot he had and tied a shirt around his unbooted foot. ... At this time he heard the fire whistle blow and he took off into the woods.” Det. Shuman took felonious Paul Pollard’s word over veteran Inspector Wilbur Ricker.   3
 
In an investigative note it states: “Tracks looked like went to the main road where subject was picked up. Tracks came from building only.”    4 
 
Does the state usually throw away evidence on an unsolved murder?    5 
 
Ricker and Jamison had worked together for five years and were a team investigating this fire in Lucerne.     6
 
The lady friend was Mike’s girlfriend, Linda Gray. Linda was visiting the murder scene while Mike was still buried under the rubble. Why didn’t she call me?  7 
 
Maine State Police Cpl. Allen Jamison’s report states:   8
0930 AM, this Officer met with Inspector Ricker at the Ellsworth Fire Department. This Officer and Ricker proceeded to the Dedham area to contact Deputy Elmer Alto, Hancock SO. Alto had information on a vehicle parked in the area the Tuesday before the fire and photos of the tracks he (Alto) followed. An interview was planned with Alto prior to going to the fire scene for measurements and photos for the follow-up investigation. Alto was not at home at this time. It was decided to go to the scene
Ricker and Jamison were unable to locate Alto on Feb. 24, 1981. Alto died a week to ten days after he wrote up his report. Hancock Deputy Sheriff Elmer Alto and Dedham Fire Chief Herrin’s reports, according to PI Bucky Buchanan, were both missing from the state’s discovery along with the photos Alto took of Pollard’s boot tracks.
 
This information was also in Inspector Ricker’s 1981 Fire Marshal’s report included in the discovery documents Roger Johnson gave me in 1986. At the time I read this in 1986, I thought back to what I had told Shuman the fall of 1983 about my son’s unsolved murder: “If someone struck your dog and knocked it in a ditch and didn’t bother to pick it up or come to let you know it was dead, just leave it lying in a ditch for six days, you would be upset. He wasn’t a dog, he was my son and as long as I live I will fight to find out what happened to him.” Shuman just looked at me and shook his head. This was the same day that Det. Pinkham hid behind the door across the hall.  9 
 
This information was very hard for me to listen to. I suffered each time I heard what had happened to Mike the night he was murdered. But I couldn’t move on. I was obsessed with my son’s brutal murder and the fact that the murderers were walking free.  10
 
I left the deposition room and went to the lobby. As I sat in the waiting room waiting to be called back to the deposition room, I thought about Glazier and Pollard and how they must have discussed Mike’s murder within the walls near where I was sitting. At Cormier’s trial in 1986 Pollard would allow Glazier to testify about the stolen rifles, shotguns and dynamite but not about Mike’s murder. How I wished the walls could talk. Mike on floor before fire was set.   11
 
[I’ve omitted the remainder of Ricker’s description of Mike’s burned body because I cannot read or write it.]    12 
 
Ricker told me in 1981 that someone had broken the window glass to the outside door to gain entry to the cottage and that Mike was on the floor before the fire was set. That was the first time I had had to face the fact that Mike could have been harmed before the fire. I’ll never forget the pain I suffered when Mr. Ricker told me this. I was a wreck for days afterward. But at the time of Inspector Ricker’s 1990 deposition, I had learned much more about Mike’s murder than I did in 1981 (nearly ten years previous); I knew that Mike was shot and I knew why he was murdered. But the terrible thoughts of what he might have suffered that night are still with me and will be until the day I die. He was still breathing as he lay on the floor dying. Was he able to think of his family? I pray to God not. In 1988 Richard Sargent’s attorney J. Hilary Billings wrote in a letter to the Maine Bar Association: “the death of one Micheal Cochran [was caused] by burning the camp in which he was sleeping.” [Mike had been sleeping upstairs in a loft before he was murdered. But forty-two year fire marshal veteran Ricker said it was very clear to me that this body was on the floor prior to the fire.   13
 
Mike was still breathing according to Chief Medical Examiner Henry Ryan’s letter to me in 1981: “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 stated, “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.” And the autopsy report states, “the blood contained a carbon monoxide level of 46% saturation.” [So, gas was not poured on a body, it was poured on Mike while he was still alive and breathing!]    14 
 
Ricker’s deposition was one month short of nine-years after Mike’s murder and
the state had never bothered to pick up the gas cans from Mr. Ricker.    15
 
The court clerk mailed me Ricker’s photo of the back door with no stairs after my lawsuit was over. It shows a gas can sitting directly beneath the back door of the cabin. This was the back door that Pollard claimed he went out and then crawled back inside to get a few things. Fire Marshal Ricker expert opinion was that the building exploded from the fumes. Maine Fire Inspector Ricker’s photo of the back door that Pollard claims he went in and out of while the fire was raging. Insurance Adjuster Michael Meagher’s un-contradicted court testimony during my lawsuit confirmed, by his photograph of the cottage before the fire, that there was a six-foot drop off from the bottom of the back door sill to the ground with no stairs.  16  
 
The building that Maine DEA agents Det. Pinkham and Bangor Police Captain Frederick F. Clarke Jr., Director of the Maine DEA, waited for Mike to be found before searching for the cocaine the DEA Agents had planned on buying for $3,000 (but didn’t get) the night of the February 17–18, 1981 DEA drug sting.    17 
 
The little garage that Maine DEA agents Pinkham and DEA Director Fred Clark searched for drugs. 18
 
 [How did Pollard run in and out of a building that exploded? 19
 
Ricker had taken eleven Polaroid photographs at the scene and they were labeled as exhibits four through fourteen. They were mostly of Mike’s burned body. I never saw the photos. But when the court asked me to pick up the gas cans that had been left at the courthouse, I was also given two of the eleven photos. One was the photo of the gas can sitting on the ground directly under the back door with a six-foot drop off and no stairs. The other was a photo of the murder scene while Mike was still under the burned rubble, I was told. I didn’t look at the photo; I put it inside a video case with a copy of Ricker’s video deposition and left it there. I don’t know what became of the other nine photos.    20
 
PHOTO  The small garage that Fire Marshal Ricker stayed behind when he heard a car coming up the hill toward the murder scene.   21 
 
This was the 24th of February. There was nothing reported in the news about the fire until the day after Mike was found, February 25th. In Pollard’s Feb. 12, 1981 statement he said that he, Cormier, and Percy had gone back to the murder scene one or two days after the murder and on the drive down they wondered why the cops hadn’t found the body yet. At the scene, Pollard said, they kicked around in the burned rubble trying to uncover Mike’s body. They had come back when Ricker surprised them.]   22 
 
Shuman seemed to not learn important information until sometime later. Pinkham and Clark went to the little garage the firemen had saved.    23
 
Inspector Ricker had been a fire inspector for 42 years. But now Shuman and Pinkham wanted to tell him they knew more about investigating this fire than he did. I believe the reason that Shuman and Pinkham was saying that Mike fell down from his bed rather than being on the floor before the fire was set was because it complicated their story of Pollard not seeing or hearing anything. I believe that this was just more of Shuman and Pinkham’s cover-up of Mike’s murder.   24  
 
A Maine State Police report dated March 6, 1981 states that the Maine State Police received from the Crime Lab evidence locker: “One barrel and trigger housing of a 5MM Remington rifle... an expended 5MM Remington cartridge casing shows a firing pin impression.”   25  
 
Ralph Pinkham’s investigation report states: “On March 5, 1981 at 1000 hours, this officer returned to the fire scene where arrangements had been made to have a back hoe dig through the fire remains for further evidence. Present at the scene were the backhoe operator David Hamilton, State Police Detectives [Trooper] Ronald Graves, Herbert Shuman, Ronald Libby, Darryl Clement, and Lt. Fred Clarke, Director of [DEA]. [Pinkham excluded Fire Marshal Wilbur Ricker and Fire Chief Norman Herrin’s presence at the murder scene from his report. With Ricker, Herrin and Pinkham there were nine men at the murder scene. Pinkham’s report states that “As a result of this search a 5MM rifle and a section of floor linoleum with pieces of glass on it were recovered and transferred to the State Police Lab in Augusta by this officer.”
     Ricker’s report disputes Pinkham’s report that the flooring with pieces of glass were recovered on March 5. Ricker said that when Shuman and Pinkham arrived on the murder scene the day Mike was found, Feb. 24, that “after they moved the body, I think it was right then anyway that I saw that clean floor. I know I discussed it with them. The detectives had the flooring with pieces of glass on it on February 24, not March 5, nine days later.  26
 
PHOTO  The fireplace can be seen in the center of the burned building

 Maybe Pollard, Cormier, or Percy Sargent put it there when they were visiting the murder scene during the six days Mike's body lay under the fire rubble. Pollard told Shuman that they visited the murder scene and “pawed around in the rubble kicking things around” while “looking for the body” according to Pollard’s Feb. 12, 1985 statement.
     The Maine State Police cleaned up the arson/murder scene nine days after Mike was found in the fire rubble. They trucked the wall leaning on the little garage and all the fire debris to a dump. I wonder if this is a usual thing for the Maine State Police to do—to clear up an murder scene that the fire inspector was not allowed to investigate.
     Pinkham’s report states: March 5, 1981, “This officer returned to the fire scene where arrangements had been made to have a backhoe dig through the fire remains for further evidence.” But they didn’t find any evidence. Ricker gave them the floor linoleum with the broken glass and Herrin found the gun leaning up against cement blocks. So why did they truck all the fire rubble to a dump?     27  
 
Why, I wonder, did they beat the gun up? Would that not be destroying evidence?  28 
 
In Fire Chief Herrin’s deposition, he said on the morning of February 25, 1981 that he and Alto “sat to the fire house and made out our reports at the same time, the one that I don’t know what happened to it …” PI Buchanan said both reports were missing.]   29 
 
According to a statement Maine State Police Detectives Shuman and Pinkham took from Joann Johnson on February 25, 1981, “She got up to go to the bathroom at about 0345 hours. She looked out the window and noticed that the Dupray camp was all on fire. She called the Fire Chief and indicated that it appeared that the trees and the whole house was fully involved in flames at that time.”  And Fire Chief Herrin, in his May 24, 1989 deposition said “he immediately dressed and responded. He said he arrived at 3:55 a.m. with his siren on and lights flashing.” Herrin’s arrival on the murder scene was ten minutes after Ms. Johnson first saw the fire.  30 
 
I believe Mr. Ricker was a little hard of hearing at 77 years old. I believe that Glazier picked up on this and stayed a distance from Mr. Ricker checking his hearing. During my trial this would make Mr. Ricker appear old and incompetent when Ricker had to ask Glazier to repeat his questions. 31 
 
Ricker said that both doors—the front door and the storm door—were definitely in an open position.   32
 
According to Attorney Davis Fire adjuster Michael Meagher’s un-contradicted testimony, confirmed by his photographs, was that there was a six-foot drop from the back door sill to the ground. Paul Pollard’s testimony was that he was 5 feet, 3 inches tall.    33