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Ex-Corrections Officer Arrested In 1988 Cold Case Murder Of 11-Year-Old Girl

Marvin McClendon was arrested in Alabama on a fugitive warrant in the death of Melissa Tremblay, who was found stabbed to death in a Massachusetts train yard in 1988. 

By Jax Miller
A police handout of Marvin McClendon

A former corrections officer from New England was arrested in Alabama in connection with the 1988 murder of an 11-year-old child.

Marvin C. McClendon Jr., 74, was arrested on Wednesday in connection with the stabbing murder of Melissa Ann Tremblay, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. McClendon, who lives in Bremen, Alabama, was booked into the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office and charged as a fugitive from justice just one day after Massachusetts officials issued a warrant for his arrest.

McClendon has yet to decide whether or not he’ll waive extradition.

“I want to thank everyone involved in this investigation from beginning to end,” said District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett. “Their tireless pursuit of justice for Melissa has brought us to this moment.”

Melissa Tremblay, who lived in Salem, New Hampshire, disappeared on Sept. 11, 1988. She had been accompanying her mother and her mother’s boyfriend to an event at the Lasalle Social Club in Lawrence, Massachusetts — about 30 miles north of Boston, near the border with New Hampshire — Blodgett said during a live press conference on Wednesday. The child was reportedly playing outside before her disappearance; she was last spotted by a local railroad worker and pizza deliverer in the afternoon.

Tremblay’s mother and boyfriend reported the child’s disappearance to the Lawrence Police Department at around 9:00 p.m. that evening.

The following day, Tremblay was found stabbed to death at the Boston & Maine Railway Yard near Andover Street and South Broadway, according to the release. Her left leg had amputated postmortem by a moving train after her body had been positioned between two train cars.

Her body was left just one block from the social club, according to ABC local affiliate WMUR-TV.

A handout photo of Melissa Tremblay

Police did not say whether or not Tremblay was sexually assaulted, but the district attorney’s office said that “evidence recovered from the victim’s body was instrumental in solving the case.”

Blodgett, the district attorney, declined to reveal what specific physical evidence linked McClendon to the crime scene but said it would be revealed following the suspect’s arraignment. He added that McClendon had been a person of interest for “a period of time.”

Despite “scores of witnesses, suspects, and persons of interest” over three decades, the case grew cold until officials with the Essex County District Attorney’s Office and State Police detectives reopened the case in 2014.

“We never gave up on Melissa,” Blodgett said in his statement. “Nor did we give up on holding her killer responsible.”

Loved ones in Tremblay’s hometown had held out hope that one day the killer would be caught — including childhood friend Andrea Ganley, who spoke to Boston 25 News on the 30th anniversary of the murder in 2019.

“We all had to grow up without her, continue on our lives without her, get married, have children, all these things,” said Ganley. “She is forever 11, and we’re all adults.”

According to WMUR-TV, Tremblay’s mother has since passed away. The victim was an only child.

Essex Victim Advocates contacted surviving members, including Tremblay’s aunt and cousins, on Tuesday night after the warrant was issued and again on Wednesday morning after the arrest was made.

Authorities said McClendon lived in Chelmsford, Massachusetts at the time of the murder, which is about a 20-minute drive from Lawrence. Authorities added he had “multiple ties” to the Lawrence area, where he frequented several establishments, including the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Blodgett said McClendon was a former corrections officer in Massachusetts but was unsure if the man was employed with the state’s Department of Corrections in 1988.

McClendon is expected to be arraigned in an Alabama court on Thursday.

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