Alabama man linked to 1988 killing of a sixth-grade girl in Massachusetts

Published 10:11 pm Friday, May 13, 2022

A 74-year-old Alabama man was linked to the 1988 killing of an 11-year-old girl in Massachusetts through DNA evidence, a prosecutor said at the suspect’s arraignment on Friday.

Marvin C. McClendon Jr. was held without bail after a not guilty plea to a murder charge in connection with the death of Melissa Ann Tremblay was entered on his behalf in Lawrence District Court.

Tremblay, of Salem, New Hampshire, was found in a Lawrence trainyard on Sept. 12, 1988, the day after she was reported missing. She had been stabbed and her body had been run over by a train, authorities said.

The cold case unit at the Essex district attorney’s office has been working on the case since 2014, and McClendon has long been considered a “person of interest,” authorities said.

A DNA profile of a suspect taken from the girl’s body was linked to McClendon, prosecutor Jessica Strasnick said in court Friday. In addition, a van spotted near the scene of the killing was similar to a van that the suspect drove at the time, she said. No motive for the killing was disclosed.

McClendon, a former Massachusetts corrections officer, was arrested at his home in Bremen, Alabama, last month.

A telephone message seeking comment was left with McClendon’s attorney.

The victim had accompanied her mother and her mother’s boyfriend to a Lawrence social club not far from the railyard and went outside to play while the adults stayed inside, authorities said at a news conference last month. She was reported missing later that night. Lawrence, Massachusetts and Salem, New Hampshire, are just a few miles apart.

McClendon, a former employee of the Massachusetts prisons department, lived in not far from Lawrence in Chelmsford and was doing carpentry work at the time of the killing, authorities said. He worked and attended church in Lawrence.

The girl’s mother, Janet Tremblay, died in 2015 at age 70, according to her obituary. But surviving relatives been informed of the arrest.

“Since her murder in 1988, we have always prayed for justice,” an aunt, uncle and two cousins said in a statement last month.

“My aunt Janet may not have used the best judgment in allowing Missy to play around the neighborhood of the social club, but that is between her and God,” they added. “She loved Missy and never intended any harm to come to her.”