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Former Corrections Officer Indicted in 1988 Cold Case Murder of 11-Year-Old Girl

Melissa Ann Tremblay, and Marvin McClendon.

Melissa Ann Tremblay, Marvin McClendon.

A 74-year-old Alabama man has been indicted in the cold case murder of an 11-year-old New England girl who was killed nearly 35 years ago, prosecutors announced. An Essex County grand jury on Wednesday formally indicted Marvin “Skip” C. McClendon Jr. on the charge of first-degree murder for the 1988 slaying of Melissa Ann Tremblay.

The girl, whose family called her Missy, was found dead in the Boston & Maine Railway Yard in Lawrence, Massachusetts on Sept. 12, 1988. She had suffered multiple stab wounds and her body had been left in the path of an oncoming train. Her left leg had been amputated postmortem by a passing train car.

Following the indictment, the case against McClendon will be transferred from the Lawrence District Court to the jurisdiction of the Essex County Superior Court, the Essex County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.

It is expected that McClendon will be arraigned in Salem Superior Court in July. He remains held without bail.

As Law&Crime previously reported, the defendant, a former officer with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, was arrested in Alabama back in April and charged as a fugitive from justice. He entered a plea of not guilty to the murder charge.

According to authorities, investigators linked McClendon to the homicide through DNA evidence found at the scene.

“Evidence recovered from the victim’s body was instrumental in solving this case,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett said at the time of McClendon’s arrest. “The suspect lived in Chelmsford in 1988 and had multiple ties to Lawrence.”

Investigators previously said the defendant has been considered a “person of interest” in the case “for some time.”

The prosecutor’s office went into those details during McClendon’s court appearance last month.

“Using various DNA advancements, the commonwealth was able to focus on the name McClendon,” prosecutor Jessica Strasnick said during the brief hearing.

Strasnick said that the Massachusetts State Crime Lab generated a DNA profile from Melissa’s remains which homed in on the paternal line of the potential suspect.

“Through investigation, the commonwealth located various McClendons and took DNA samples,” Strasnick said. “DNA samples were taken from the defendant before you, Marvin McClendon, whose DNA profile was consistent with the DNA profile that was found on Melissa Tremblay’s body.”

The precise nature of the DNA evidence obtained from Melissa’s body has not yet been disclosed.

Strasnick went on to allege that during several police interviews McClendon relayed “information to investigators that was never made public” about Melissa’s death. Investigators also discovered that McClendon previously owned a van “consistent with what witnesses had seen [Melissa] speaking with.”

On the night she went missing, Melissa’s mother and her mother’s boyfriend were dining at the LaSalle Social Club while Melissa played outside in the nearby rail yard. Witnesses described a van in the area at the time of her murder.

“While her mother and mother’s boyfriend remained inside the club, Melissa played in the adjacent neighborhoods and was last seen by a railroad employee and pizza delivery driver during the late afternoon hours,” Blodgett said in April.

A frantic search ensued and the girl was reported missing at approximately 9 p.m. that night. Her body was discovered the following day, only one block from the LaSalle Social Club.

Authorities have not provided a possible motive for the slaying.

Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.

[Image of Tremblay via Essex County District Attorney’s Office; screenshot via McClendon via WBZ]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.