Maine State Police continue to follow up on leads in a case involving the 1976 disappearance of Pauline Rourke, of Fairfield Center, and have been excavating wells in central Maine in an attempt to find her remains.

Lt. Jeffrey Love, who oversees the Maine State Police Unsolved Homicide Unit, said Thursday that his team received six to 10 leads from the public in the last two weeks about possible water well locations where Pauline Rourke’s remains might be.

Officials searched two wells in the Smithfield and Mercer area but did not find her remains.

“We’ve spoken to the individuals, we’ve gathered the information and added it to the case file and we’ve gone out and conducted searches, looking for more clues,” Love said.

Love said he is hopeful the work police are doing will pay off.

“These are some of the toughest cases in the state of Maine, and getting information doesn’t come easy,” he said. “We’re used to that, but our resolve is strong and we’ll continue. We’ve searched two additional wells and didn’t find what we were looking for, but we will continue, as we receive the information, to continue looking for clues.”

Albert Cochran, Rourke’s boyfriend before her disappearance in 1976, told members of the Unsolved Homicide Unit before he died June 27 in a Rockport hospital that her remains were in a water well in the Smithfield area.

At the time, Cochran, 79, was serving a life sentence for murdering and raping Janet Baxter, of Oakland, in 1976, a couple of weeks before Rourke’s disappearance. Police in 1976 had not yet linked Cochran to Baxter’s killing. In 1998, 23 years later, they discovered that connection through DNA testing and arrested him. At the time, Cochran was re-married and living in Stuart, Florida.

Earlier, Cochran had served nine years in an Illinois prison for murdering his first wife, Patricia Ann, 19, in 1964 in Joliet, Illinois. He admitted to strangling her.

Cochran also was charged, but never convicted, of stabbing their three children to death in Illinois. He claimed his wife had killed them.

Rourke, with whom he lived off Route 139 in Fairfield Center at the time of Baxter’s murder in 1976, disappeared two weeks after Baxter disappeared and was never found. Baxter’s body was discovered in the trunk of a car along the Kennebec River in Norridgewock after her death. She had been shot in the head and chest.

A nurse, Baxter had driven Nov. 23, 1976, from her Oakland home to the A&P supermarket in the JFK Mall on Kennedy Memorial Drive to buy cold medicine and never returned home. She had no known connection to Cochran at the time.

Authorities revealed after Cochran death’s that they had been intensifying efforts to find Rourke’s remains and said they’re now asking the public for help in finding the well in the Smithfield area. They revealed June 28 for the first time that Cochran said he knew his dead girlfriend’s body was in a well, though he would not admit he had killed her.

The Unsolved Homicide Unit had met with Cochran several times in an effort to solve Rourke’s disappearance, according to Love, who also oversees the State Police Major Crimes Unit. They drove around central Maine with Cochran to try to identify the wells where her remains might be, but without success.

Cochran told police that, during the year before Rourke disappeared, he and Rourke were on the property where the well is located that contains her remains and that he stole two wagon wheels from the property, which also had a barn on it, according to Detective Jay Pelletier, who was with Cochran on the driving trips. He said Cochran described it as a dilapidated barn that had caved in and there was a well between the barn and the road. The well was lined with slate rocks on top and there was a hayfield out back.

Pelletier said the slate rocks might be an important piece of information the public might be able to help police with, as there were no other wells in the area police searched between April and into June this year that had slate rocks.

State police asked anyone who can provide information about a well where Rourke’s remains might be to call police dispatch at 624-7076. They say the well could be in the Oakland or Fairfield area, as well as in Smithfield or Mercer.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17