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Family of 11-year-old victim in 1988 murder case speaks out

“We never thought that after 33 1/2 years we would finally see someone arrested and facing a judge."

Marvin C. McClendon Jr. stands in the prisoner's dock during his arraignment in Lawrence District Court, Friday, May 13, 2022, in Lawrence, Mass. McClendon Jr., a 74-year-old Alabama man, was held without bail after a not guilty plea to a charge of murder in connection with the 1988 killing of 11-year-old Melissa Ann Tremblay. Tim Jean/The Eagle-Tribune via AP, Pool

The family of Melissa Tremblay, the 11-year-old girl found murdered in Lawrence in 1988, spoke out after the suspect in her murder was ordered held without bail last week.

Marvin “Skip” McClendon Jr., 74, was arrested in Alabama last month and pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on Friday. A dangerousness hearing is set for July 17.

“We never thought that after 33 1/2 years we would finally see someone arrested and facing a judge,” Tremblay’s remaining family members said in a statement released by the Essex County District Attorney’s office. “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.”

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Tremblay, who lived in Salem, New Hampshire, was found dead in a train yard on Sept. 12, 1988. She had been stabbed, and her body was run over by a train. DNA linked McClendon to the cold case murder, authorities said in court on Friday.

Tremblay’s mother passed away in the years following the 11-year-old’s murder. The girl’s remaining family members – an aunt, uncle, and cousins – said they’ve had many emotions since finding out of McClendon’s arrest in April.

“[Emotions] have gone from excitement to sadness to frustration and really all over the place,” the family said in their statement. “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. While we are frustrated that it has taken so long we are happy that the police have never given up on the case and in no way blame them for the length of time it has taken.”

Tremblay had gone with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend to a Lawrence social club and went outside to play while the adults remained inside, prosecutors said. She was later reported missing.

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Prosecutors said McClendon, a former Massachusetts corrections officer, lived near where the murder occurred and worked in carpentry at the time. He also worked and went to church in Lawrence.

“The fact that technology has advanced and they were able to follow DNA evidence to find this man has brought us great joy,” Tremblay’s family said. “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.”  

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