Inmate suspected in 1976 disappearance of woman dies

Death potentially adds challenge to solving cold case

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - When a convicted killer died last week, he may have taken with him answers to the disappearance and likely murder of another woman.

In the months and weeks leading up to Albert Cochran’s death, police and the missing woman’s daughter were getting new information from him about Pauline Rourke. With his passing, solving the case now appears much more difficult. 

“It just kills me the thought of him dying and taking it with him”, said Rourke's daughter Honey.

When honey Rourke was 12-years old, Albert Cochran took her and her mother to the spot in Oakland where Janet Baxter was raped and killed.

“He kept saying this is where the woman died, they say she was down over the bank and she was wrapped up”, she said.

Her mother, Pauline Rourke, was living with Cochran at the time. She was just about to go to police when she disappeared.

“I gave her a kiss from behind, went to school and never saw her since”, said Honey Rourke.

More than 20-years later investigators linked Cochran’s DNA to the Baxter murder. He was convicted in 1999. He was also the prime suspect in Pauline Rourke’s disappearance.

Recently, with his health declining, he agreed to meet several times with police and Rourke’s daughter. Coming face to face with the man she suspected killed her mother made her sick. But she had to be nice to get the information she wanted.

‘I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything, sleep, nothing. It was absolutely horrible”, she said.

Cochran told police Rourke’s body was in a well in the town of Smithfield, but searches proved to be unsuccessful

“He’s always fallen just short of implicating himself and telling us the exact piece of ultimately what we’re looking for”, said Lt. Jeff Love of the Maine State Police Cold Case Unit.

Last week, while serving a life sentence, Cochran died in the hospital.

Albert Cochran leaves behind a legacy of violence. Besides being convicted of Janet Baxter’s murder and suspected in Pauline Rourke’s disappearance, he was convicted of killing his 19-year old wife in Illinois. He was also charged with stabbing their three children to death, but was not convicted of those crimes.  

His death makes it more difficult now for investigators to solve the Rourke case.

“The one person who had the answer has now passed, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to give up”, said Lt. Love.

Neither is Pauline Rourke’s daughter.

“I’m not giving up, I’m not giving up”, she said.

The last thing Cochran left investigators and Honey with was that Pauline Rourke's body could be found in a well with slate on top of it or in it, next to a dilapidated barn where he stole two wagon wheels in 1976, possibly in Smithfield. If this sounds familiar to you at all you're asked to call state police at 624-7076.

 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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