Suspect linked to homicide in 1988 in 6th grade through DNA

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Marvin C. McClendon Jr. was detained without bail after an innocent confession of a charge of murder in connection with the death of Melissa Ann Tremblay.

Marvin C. McClendon Jr. stands in the prisoner’s dock during his trial in Lawrence District Court Friday, May 13, 2022 in Lawrence, Mass. McClendon Jr., a 74-year-old man from Alabama, was detained without bail after a not guilty pleaman pleaded guilty to the 1988 murder of 11-year-old Melissa Ann Tremblay. Tim Jean / The Eagle-Tribune via AP, Pool

LAWRENCE, Massachusetts (AP) – A 74-year-old man from Alabama was linked to the murder of an 11-year-old girl in Massachusetts in 1988 through DNA evidence, a prosecutor said at the suspect’s court hearing Friday.

Marvin C. McClendon Jr. was detained without bail after an innocent confession of a charge of murder in connection with the death of Melissa Ann Tremblay was filed on his behalf in Lawrence District Court.

Tremblay from Salem, New Hampshire, was found in a train station in Lawrence on September 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 seen near the scene of the murder looked like a van that the suspect was driving at the time, she said. No motive for the killing was revealed.

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

A phone message to get a comment was left with McClendon’s attorney.

The victim had followed his mother and her mother’s girlfriend to a Lawrence social club not far from the train station 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 only a few miles apart.

McClendon, a former employee of the Massachusetts Prison Department, lived not far from Lawrence in Chelmsford and was engaged in carpentry work at the time of the killing, authorities said. He worked and went to church in Lawrence.

The girl’s mother, Janet Tremblay, died in 2015 at the age of 70, according to her obituary.

Her surviving family members on Saturday thanked law enforcement for making an arrest more than three decades later.

They said they appreciated that the police never gave up on the case, adding that they look forward to seeing “justice finally served.”

“We never thought that after 33 1/2 years we would finally see an arrested person and face a judge,” the family said in a statement from Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office. “The fact that the technology is advanced and they were able to follow DNA evidence to find this man has brought us great joy.”

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