Suspect arraigned for 1986 murder of Salem State student Claire Gravel

SALEM, Mass. — Thirty-six years after Claire Gravel’s body was discovered on the side of Route 128 in Beverly, a 63-year-old man was arraigned in Salem Superior Court, charged with her murder.

John Carey, already serving a 20-year sentence for attempted murder (strangulation) and house invasion convictions in an unrelated case, was arraigned via video link from MCI Souza Baranowski where he loudly proclaimed “Not Guilty!”

In Salem Superior Court, Claire Gravel’s father, three of her brothers, and a sister-in-law filled a front row in the courtroom to see the man now charged with Claire’s murder.

“Today is the first day on the road to justice. It’s a day we didn’t think was coming,” Bob Gravel, Jr, Claire’s brother said.

Claire Gravel’s body was discovered on June 29, 1986. The night before, she played softball in Salem, and later celebrated at Major Magleashes bar on Washington Street with friends.

Boston 25 Investigative Reporter Bob Ward covered Claire’s story for New England’s Unsolved in 2004.

At the time, a Massachusetts State Police investigator told Ward that Claire left the bar at 1 a.m., but there were conflicting reports of where she went next.

One man told investigators he gave Claire a ride to her apartment on Loring Avenue, but no one saw her arrive and the account was never independently verified.

Other witnesses told investigators a woman matching Claire’s description was seen out front of Major Magleashes after it closed, arguing with a man before getting into a car.

It is not known if Claire knew John Carey, who was six years older than her.

However, at his arraignment, Essex County Assistant District Attorney Kim Faitella revealed that Claire’s tank top was found tied in a “figure of eight” and that she was strangled. And that DNA collected from that tank top matched Carey’s DNA collected from him when he was incarcerated in 2009.

After court, Ward asked Bob Gravel if he had any thoughts of Claire that he wished to share.

“Always on my mind. Always on my mind.” Gravel said. “When I leave here, on my way home, I’m going to the cemetery to talk to her and tell her what happened today.”

John Carey’s current sentence is set to expire in 2027.

He is now ordered held without bail, awaiting trial for Claire Gravel’s case.

The next court day in the case is December 8th.

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

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