Melissa Ann Tremblay was 11 years old when she was stabbed to death and then left on train tracks in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where a train ran over her. Her body was found on September 12, 1988.
Now, 33 years later, authorities have charged someone with her murder.
On Friday, 74-year-old Marvin C. McClendon, Jr. was arraigned in Lawrence District Court and pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder in connection with Tremblay’s death, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports. He is being held without bail.
Police say McClendon had long been a “person of interest” in the case, but it wasn’t until last month that authorities had enough evidence to arrest McClendon, prosecutor Jessica Strasnick said, according to WCVB-TV.
“Using various DNA advancements, the commonwealth was able to focus on the name McClendon,” Strasnick said, the television station reports.
Investigators said evidence collected from the girl’s body was “instrumental” in cracking the case, according to the Union Leader.
“Melissa has never been forgotten,” Essex County District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett said in a press conference announcing McClendon’s arrest, WMUR-TV reports.
Tremblay, who was from Salem, New Hampshire, was reportedly playing in the neighborhood near the LaSalle Social Club in Lawrence, while her mother and the woman’s boyfriend were inside, according to the Boston Globe.
The establishment is about a block away from the old Boston and Maine Railway Yard, where the sixth grader’s body was found.
At the time of the girl’s death, McClendon was reportedly working in the carpentry field. He had been employed by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections at various times between 1970 and 2002 before he retired and moved to Alabama.
Thomas Murphy, a retired police detective who worked the case decades ago, said he is hopeful that Tremblay and her family will see justice.
“It always bothered me,” Murphy told the television station. “A young child. Somebody’s young child,” he said.
Sherry Carignan, Tremblay’s childhood friend, attended Friday’s court hearing. She said she has mixed feelings about McClendon’s capture.
“News like finding out they made an arrest is something to be celebrated, but it does break your heart open,” Carignan told WCVB-TV. “Let’s hope justice is served here, but I think the real justice will come when he sits before God.”
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[Featured image: Marvin C. McClendon, Jr., Melissa Tremblay/Police Handout]