The suspected killer of 11-year-old Melissa Ann Tremblay in Massachusetts over three decades ago appeared in court Friday to face a murder charge for the first time, and on Saturday her family released a statement expressing their relief that there has been an update in the case, and frustration that some of the family are no longer alive to see justice served.
A Lawrence District Court judge ordered Marvin "Skip" McClendon Jr., a 74-year-old ex-corrections officer, be held without bail in the deadly 1988 stabbing after being arrested in Alabama last month, prosecutors said. He'll have a dangerousness hearing on June 17; people accused of crimes in Massachusetts generally have not guilty pleas entered on their behalves.
Melissa Ann, from Salem, New Hampshire, was found dead in a Lawrence train yard on Sept. 12, 1988, a day after she was reported missing.
" We never thought that after 33 1/2 years we would finally see someone arrested and facing a judge. While we know there are many more steps we are very confident that the District Attorney's office will be just as vigilant in prosecuting this case as the detectives have been for all these years in finding Marvin McClendon," the statement from Danielle Root on behalf of her family, Missy's aunt, uncle and cousins.
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Melissa had accompanied her mother and her mother’s boyfriend to the LaSalle Social Club in Lawrence, not far from the railyard, and went outside to play while the adults stayed inside, authorities have said. She was last seen by a railroad employee and a pizza delivery driver during the late afternoon hours.
McClendon was arrested last month at his home in Bremen, Alabama, and was being returned to Massachusetts to face the murder charge after waiving his right to a local court appearance.
"There have been so many emotions since the end of April when we were contacted about the arrest. They have gone from excitement to sadness to frustration and really all over the place. We are excited to see him in jail but very sad my aunt, grandfather and other family members are no longer alive to see him facing justice," Root continued in the statement, which went on to thank police for their ongoing efforts over the years and the use of DNA technology that wasn't originally available to work the case.
"Our family looks forward to seeing this case go forward to the grand jury for indictment and then onto the Superior court to see justice finally served," Root finished.
McClendon is a retired Massachusetts Department of Corrections employee, but Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett has said he isn't sure if he was working for the state in 1988. He worked for the department on three separate occasions from 1970 to 2002.
He lived in Chelmsford and was doing carpentry work at the time of the killing. He had multiple ties to Lawrence, which is close to Salem, New Hampshire. He worked in the city and frequented numerous establishments there, including the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Salem Street.
Prosecutors said Friday that DNA evidence found in 2014 on Melissa Ann led investigators to McClendon's family, and they obtained DNA samples from some, including Marvin. He was the only left-handed family member, and the wound that killed the girl was found to have been delivered by a left-handed person.
He also had ties to Lawrence and a van that looked like one that witnesses saw Melissa Ann near on the day she disappeared, according to prosecutors.
Melissa's friend Sherry Carignan was in court for McLendon's arraignment.
"I was 10 years old when this happened so you imagine a person in your head and what they could look like and who they could be and you look and see a frail, old man," Carignan said.
Another friend of Melissa's, Andrea Ganley, who did not want her face shown, had a message for the defendant.
"You took the life of an 11-year-old girl and then you went on for another 33 years walking free... and where's she? In a grave," Ganley said.
It is unclear whether the suspect and victim knew each other, Blodgett has said. He said there is no information leading investigators to believe the suspect was involved in any other crimes.