LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — A 74-year-old Alabama man was linked through DNA evidence to the 1988 murder of an 11-year-old girl in Massachusetts, a prosecutor at the suspect’s arraignment said Friday.
Marvin C. McClendon Jr. was held without bail after a plea of not guilty to a murder charge related to the death of Melissa Ann Tremblay was filed on his behalf in Lawrence District Court.
Tremblay, of Salem, New Hampshire, was found at a Lawrence railroad yard on September 12, 1988, the day after she was reported missing. She was stabbed and her body was run over by a train, authorities said.
Essex Prosecutors’ Cold Case Unit has been working on the case since 2014 and McClendon has long been considered a “person of interest”, authorities said.
A suspect’s DNA profile, taken from the girl’s body, has been linked to McClendon, prosecutor Jessica Strasnick said in court Friday. In addition, a van discovered near the crime scene resembled a van the suspect was driving at the time, she said. A motive for the killing was not disclosed.
McClendon, a former Massachusetts correctional officer, was arrested at his home in Bremen, Alabama, last month.
McClendon’s attorney left a phone message asking for comment.
The victim had accompanied her mother and her mother’s boyfriend 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 just a few miles apart.
McClendon, a former employee of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, lived near Lawrence in Chelmsford and was doing carpentry work at the time of the murder, authorities said. He worked and attended 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 thanked law enforcement officers Saturday for the 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 “justice being finally served.”
“We never thought that after 33 1/2 years we would finally arrest someone and put them before a judge,” the family said in a statement from Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett. “The fact that technology has advanced and they were able to follow DNA evidence to find this man brought us great joy.”