LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — 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, the van spotted near the scene of the killing was similar to a van that the suspect drove at the time, she said. No reason 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 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.
Her surviving family members thanked law enforcement officials Saturday for making an arrest more than three decades later.
They said they appreciated that police never gave up on the case, adding they look forward to seeing “justice finally served.”
“We never thought that after 33 1/2 years we would finally see someone arrested and facing a judge,” the family said in a statement provided by Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office. “The fact that technology has advanced and they were able to follow DNA evidence to find this man has brought us great joy.”