LAWRENCE (CBS) – Marvin McClendon, the 74-year-old man charged with the 1988 murder of 11-year-old Melissa Tremblay in Lawrence, was held without bail on Friday.
McClendon was arrested in Alabama last month and was brought back to Massachusetts this week for his arraignment in Lawrence District Court. He has pleaded not guilty to one count of first degree murder.
According to the Essex District Attorney’s office, McClendon is a retired Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer and was doing carpentry work at the time of the murder.
Tremblay, who lived in Salem, New Hampshire, was with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend at a Lawrence social club on September 11, 1988. She left the club to play in nearby neighborhoods and was found dead a day later. stabbed in the neck. at an Andover Street freight yard. The case had been unsolved for more than 33 years.
In court Friday, prosecutor Jessica Strasnick said DNA evidence recovered from the girl’s body led them to McClendon in Alabama.
“Understanding that it could have been anyone from Mr. McClendon’s paternal line, investigators began to zero in on Mr. McClendon and his family, who were in the area and had ties to Massachusetts. Most of his family was interviewed. They had never been to Massachusetts. In fact, they resided in Alabama,” Strasnick told the court.
She said they were also able to determine that the killer was left-handed and that the McClendons’ DNA strain showed that only one of them, Marvin McClendon, is also left-handed.
Last month, Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said McClendon had been a person of interest in the case “for some time.” McClendon was living in Chelmsford in 1988 and investigators said he had multiple ties to Lawrence. The prosecutor said he also owned a pickup truck that was similar to one witnesses saw in the area at the time of the murder.
“I was 10 years old when this happened, so you picture the person in your head and what they might look like and who they might be and then you look up and see it’s a frail old man,” Tremblay’s friend Sherry Carignan said. reporters outside the court. “I didn’t think he would get to this day, it’s been so long, the case had gone cold and it was hard to follow when he was ten years old.”
Nothing is yet known about the motive for the murder.
“I want to know why this happened, how did it cross his path, what is his motive,” said Andrea Ganley, a friend of Tremblay’s. “You took the life of an 11-year-old girl and then spent another 33 years walking free. And where was she? In a tomb.
It is not yet clear if McClendon knew Tremblay or his family. He is due back in court on June 17.