Marvin C. McClendon Jr. is the suspect arrested in the 1988 murder of 11-year-old Melissa Tremblay in Massachusetts. McClendon, now 74, was arrested in Alabama on April 26, 2022, the Essex District Attorney’s Office said in a press release. McClendon has been a “person of interest for a period of time … we believe we have the right person,” the district attorney said.
Marvin McClendon, who also goes by “Skip” McClendon, is accused of killing Melissa Ann Tremblay, of Salem, New Hampshire, on September 12, 1988, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the prosecutor’s office said. Her body was found, “in the old Boston & 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,” the press release said.
Officials released few details about what led them to make the arrest, saying more information would be provided after McClendon appeared in court. “I want to thank everyone involved in this investigation from beginning to end,” District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said in a statement after McClendon’s arrest. “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.”
Here’s what you need to know about Marvin McClendon and the cold case murder of Melissa Tremblay:
1. Melissa Tremblay Had Last Been Seen Playing in the Neighborhood Near a Social Club Before Her Body Was Found
The Essex District Attorney’s Office said in its press release that after Melissa “Missy” Tremblay’s body was found, “An investigation ensued and police learned that Melissa Tremblay had accompanied her mother and mother’s boyfriend to the LaSalle Social Club at 397 Andover Street in Lawrence on Sunday, September 11, 1988. She was a sixth grader at the Lancaster School in Salem, New Hampshire, at the time.
The district attorney’s office added, “While her mother and mother’s boyfriend remained inside the club, Melissa played in the adjacent neighborhoods and was last seen by a railroad employee and pizza delivery driver during the late afternoon hours. That night, Melissa’s mother and mother’s boyfriend frantically searched the area and then reported her missing to the Lawrence Police around 9:00 p.m.”
Melissa Tremblay’s mother has since died, but the district attorney’s office said aunts and a causing were contacted about the arrest. Blodgett said the family was “very relieved” and “very happy” to hear an arrest was made and that authorities “never gave up in pursuing justice for Melissa.” Blodgett added, “I can’t even express how gratified we are to solve this … It is extremely gratifying that after all these years, never giving up, we believe we have the right suspect.”
2. Marvin C. McClendon, Who Worked for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, Lived in Chelmsford at the Time of Melissa’s Murder & Had Ties to Lawrence, Where She Was Killed, the District Attorney’s Office Said
Marvin C. McClendon is a retired corrections officer for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, Blodgett said at a press conference. The district attorney said he was not sure if McClendon was a correctional officer at the time of Melissa’s murder or exactly when he started working for the DOC and how long he worked there.
According to the district attorney’s office, “The investigation found that the suspect 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.”
Blodgett said he was not aware of any criminal history for McClendon or any other cases he could be connected to. McClendon has also worked in carpentry, including at the time of Melissa’s death, according to Boston.com. He worked for the Massachusetts DOC on three separate occasions from 1970 to 2002.
3. McClendon, Who Is Married, Now Lives in Bremen, Alabama
McClendon now lives in Bremen, Alabama, with his wife, according to public records. Other details about his life, including when he retired from the Massachusetts DOC and how long he has lived in Alabama were not immediately available. The district attorney said he could not comment yet on whether McClendon knew the victim or the victim’s family.
“We’re not going to stop, we’re going to pursue every single lead,” Blodgett said. He said his team is “totally committed to justice, no matter how long it takes. I don’t care if it is 30 years or 60 years, we will continue to the best we can to bring some solace and justice to the families who have lost loved ones to murder.”
Blodgett said he wasn’t able to give many details about McClendon’s life in Alabama. He said he believes he was working at one point in Bremen.
4. A Cold Case Team Has Been Working ‘Diligently’ on the Case Since 2014, the District Attorney’s Office Says, Adding ‘Evidence Recovered From the Victim’s Body Was Instrumental in Solving the Case’
According to the district attorney’s office, “Over the years, scores of witnesses, suspects, and persons-of-interest were interviewed by police.” They did not say exactly how long McClendon has been considered a person of interest or suspect in the case and what exactly led to his arrest.
“Assistant District Attorneys and State Police Detectives assigned to the Essex District Attorney’s Office specializing in cold cases have worked diligently on this case since 2014. Evidence recovered from the victim’s body was instrumental in solving the case,” the district attorney’s office said. “Essex Victim Advocates contacted surviving members of Melissa’s family last night and again this morning.”
The district attorney’s office said, “DA Blodgett thanked Essex Chief Homicide Prosecutor Jessica Strasnick and Appeals Unit ADA Marina Moriarty; the Essex State Police Detective Unit, headed by Captain Steve McDonald and lead investigator Lieutenant 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, the FBI, Tewksbury Police, the Cullman County Sheriff’s Department, and the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation.”
In 2017, Murphy told The Eagle-Tribune, “I was young and I had a daughter the same age at the time. It was a tough case to digest. You never forget those cases. There were a lot of days and a lot of nights. … We worked on it forever and ever.”
5. McClendon is Being Held on a Fugitive From Justice Charge in Alabama Pending His Return to Massachusetts to Face Charges There
Marvin McClendon is being held by the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office after his arrest in Alabama on a fugitive from justice charge, officials said. He is scheduled to be arraigned in court there on Thursday, April 28, 2022. The Essex County District Attorney’s Office said, “The timing of his return to Massachusetts is dependent on his decision to waive rendition. He is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
It was not immediately clear if McClendon has hired an attorney who could speak on his behalf. When asked if he was surprised that investigators came to question and arrest him, Blodgett, the district attorney, said at a press conference, “I can’t say he was surprised when he was interviewed in Alabama. I will tell you he has been a person of interest for a period of time, so I can’t speculate as to whether he was surprised or not.”
McClendon was arrested in Alabama about 4 p.m. on April 27, the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office said ina press release. The sheriff’s office added, “McClendon is being held at the Cullman County Detention Center until he can be extradited to Massachusetts.”