DA says 34-year Lawrence murder mystery solved

LAWRENCE, Mass. — She was last seen alive on a September afternoon more than thirty years ago – but Melissa Tremblay’s whereabouts did not remain a mystery for very long.

The 11-year-old, from Salem, N.H., had accompanied her mother and mother’s boyfriend to the LaSalle Social Club on Andover Street on Sunday, Sept. 11, 1988.

“While her mother and mother’s boyfriend remained inside the club, Melissa played in the adjacent neighborhoods,” said Jonathan Blodgett, Essex County District Attorney.

The last to see her, Blodgett said: an employee in a nearby railyard and a pizza delivery man.

“That night, Melissa’s mother and mother’s boyfriend frantically searched and reported her missing to the Lawrence Police around 9 p.m.,” Blodgett said.

The next day, investigators found her body in the railyard.

“She had been stabbed to death, and post-mortem her body had been run over by a train car, causing her leg to be amputated,” Blodgett said.

For years, the crime haunted state and local investigators.

“Over the years, scores of witnesses, suspects and persons of interest were interviewed by police,” Blodgett said. “Assistant district attorneys and state police detectives assigned to my office and specializing in cold cases have worked diligently on this case since 2014.”

Finally, that appears to have paid off. Blodgett announced the arrest of 74-year-old Marvin C. McClendon, Jr – now living in Bremen, Alabama, but with local ties.

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

As for how investigators determined McClendon is their man – Blodgett said more details would be coming out during the suspect’s arraignment in Alabama Thursday. For now, he would only say evidence recovered from Tremblay’s body was “instrumental” in solving the case.

It is a case that never left Andrea Ganley, a grade-school friend of Melissa Tremblay. She recalled for Boston 25 News the last time she saw her friend alive.

“We parted ways from the playground,” Ganley said. “Just a typical end of the week, end of the day, start of the weekend, expecting to see her again Monday.”

But by Monday, Ganley and others at school knew Melissa was missing.

“A lot of the students were distraught, very concerned, very scared,” she said.

Hours later, investigators found the little girl’s body.

“They informed the teachers and the teachers informed the students,” Ganley remembered. “It was awful. It was awful.”

Ganley said she is “shocked and overwhelmed” with news of the arrest.

“I’ve been waiting for this pretty much my whole life,” she said. “I didn’t know this day was actually going to happen.”

If the suspect did murder Melissa Tremblay, he should never see the light of day, Ganley said.

“I know that they’ll never know what they took from everybody that loved her,” she said. “The person that did this and what was done to her is evil. It was so evil.”

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