Police Arrest Former Chelmsford Man in Cold Case Lawrence Murder of 11-Year-Old in 1988

Melissa Ann Tremblay, of Salem, N.H. (Courtesy photograph.)

Marvin C. McClendon Jr.. (Cullman County, Ala., Sheriff’s office.)

A former Chelmsford man was arrested last night in connection with the murder of an 11-year-old girl nearly 34 years ago in Lawrence after investigators said they solved the cold case.

Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett said today 74-year-old Marvin C. McClendon Jr., now of Breman, Ala. was arrested and charged as a fugitive from justice following the issuance of an arrest warrant yesterday for the murder of Melissa Ann Tremblay, of Salem, N.H., on Sept. 12, 1988.  McClendon is being held at the Cullman County Sheriff’s office and will be arraigned in an Alabama court tomorrow. The timing of his return depends on his decision to waive rendition.

“I want to thank everyone involved in this investigation from beginning to end,” Blodgett said.  “Their tireless pursuit of justice for Melissa has brought us to this moment. We never forgot about Melissa, nor did we give up on holding her killer accountable.”

Tremblay’s body was discovered in the old Boston and Maine Railway Yard near Andover Street and South Broadway in Lawrence. She had been stabbed to death. Postmortem, her body was run over by a train car causing her left leg to be amputated.

An investigation found Melissa Tremblay had accompanied her mother and mother’s boyfriend to the LaSalle Social Club, 397 Andover St., Lawrence, Sunday, Sept. 11, 1988. While her mother and mother’s boyfriend were inside the club, the girl played in nearby neighborhoods and was last seen by a railroad employee and pizza delivery driver during the late afternoon.

According to the district attorney’s office, that night, Melissa’s mother and her boyfriend searched the area and then reported her missing to the Lawrence Police around 9 p.m. Over the years, scores of witnesses, suspects, and persons-of-interest were interviewed by police.

Assistant district attorneys and State Police detectives assigned to the Essex District Attorney’s office specializing in cold cases worked on the case since 2014, Blodgett’s office said, and “evidence recovered from the victim’s body was instrumental in solving the case.”

The investigation found McClendon lived in Chelmsford in 1988 and had multiple ties to Lawrence.  Specifically, investigators learned that he worked and frequented establishments in the City of Lawrence including the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Salem Street.

Essex Victim Advocates contacted surviving members of Melissa’s family last night and again this morning.

Blodgett thanked Essex Chief Homicide Prosecutor Jessica Strasnick and Appeals Unit Assistant District Attorney Marina Moriarty; Essex State Police Detective Unit, headed by Capt. Steve McDonald and lead investigator Lt. Peter Sherber; and Lawrence Police detectives, both current and retired, particularly retired detective Thomas Murphy, for their “tireless and relentless pursuit of justice for Melissa.”

They were assisted by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, FBI, Tewksbury Police, Cullman County Sheriff’s Department and the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation.

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