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Suspect in 1988 stabbing death of 11-year-old girl in Lawrence appears in court

The man accused of murdering an 11-year-old girl in Lawrence more than thirty years ago was arraigned Friday in Lawrence District Court. The suspect, Marvin “Skip” McClendon, Jr., a former Massachusetts corrections officer, was arrested in Alabama last month.

Investigators credit new technology in tying the suspect to the 34-year-old murder. They say evidence recovered from Melissa Tremblay’s body was instrumental in solving the case. On Friday, prosecutors also said that McClendon had shared information about the case that was not previously disclosed.

McClendon, 74, was ordered to be held without bail. McClendon will be back in court on June 17th.

Two of Melissa Tremblay’s childhood friends attended McClendon’s arraignment.

“I was ten years old when this happened,” said Sherry Carignan. " So, you imagine the person in your head, and what they could possibly look like. And who they could be, then you look and you see a frail old man?”

Police arrested McClendon Jr. in Alabama in April, but the investigation found the former Massachusetts corrections officer used to live in Chelmsford in 1988 and had multiple ties to Lawrence.

Back in September of 1988, Melissa Tremblay’s mother and boyfriend went to the Social Club in Lawrence. While they stayed inside, Melissa played outside in the nearby neighborhoods. But by that evening, Melissa went missing. She was last seen by a railroad employee and pizza delivery driver. Sadly, her body was discovered in the railway yard. Investigators revealed she had been stabbed to death. Over the years, countless interviews were done and investigators specializing in cold cases worked diligently on this case since 2014.

All of it almost too much for retired Lawrence detective Tom Murphy to talk about

“All I can say is, it’s a great day in law enforcement today,” Murphy said.

Since the arrest, the family has released a statement saying in part, that since her murder in 1988, they’ve always prayed for justice. They thanked the Essex County District Attorney’s Office and say they are eager for the next steps in prosecuting the suspect.

Meanwhile another childhood friend, Andrea Ganley, could barely contain her anger.

“You took the life of an 11 year old girl. Then, you went on 33 years walking free. And where was she? In a grave. There is everything wrong with that,” Ganley said.

Marvin McClendon was ordered held without bail.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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