• New England's Unsolved: The murder of Melissa Tremblay

    By: Bob Ward

    Updated:

    On Sept. 12, 1988, workers at the old Boston and Maine freight terminal on Lawrence's Andover Street made a horrifying discovery. 

    Between two train cars, they found the body of a young girl, face down in the tracks, her leg severed by one of the trains.

    Retired Lawrence Police Detective Tom Murphy tells Boston 25's New England's Unsolved reporter Bob Ward, he still has the haunting image of the child's body in his mind.

    "You come across all kinds of death," Murphy said. "But when you see young people, it's pretty hard to digest."

    It wasn't long before the little girl was identified as Melissa Tremblay, an 11-year-old from Salem, New Hampshire. 

    Police determined Melissa was stabbed to death and likely placed on the railroad tracks, in an effort to disguise her death as an accident.

    But authorities found evidence of a violent struggle nearby. Melissa Tremblay's death, they ruled, was no accident.

    In 1988, Andrea Ganley was a second grader at Lancaster Memorial School in Salem, New Hampshire. 

    Melissa Tremblay was in the sixth grade, but despite the age difference the two became schoolyard friends.

    "She was bubbly and fun," Ganley tells Boston 25 News. "She was an 80s girl. She loved Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Madonna and Wham!"

    Ganley vividly remembers the day after Labor Day 1988, when her 2nd grade teacher made a heart-breaking announcement that stunned the school.

    "She was trying to hold it together, she seemed visibly upset, but composed," remembers Ganley.

    "She said something to the effect that those who knew Missy might have known she was missing over the weekend. She was found. She isn't alive."

    Melissa Tremblay led a chaotic life.

    Melissa lived with her mother who would often take her daughter to the LaSalle Social Club on Andover Street, near the railyard to spend time with a boyfriend.

    Melissa was left, unsupervised, to wander the streets of Lawrence.

    And that's what was happening on Sept. 11, 1988. Melissa was last seen at the social club, when her mother sent Melissa back outside because she was not ready to go home.

    "The mother and her friends bought Melissa some potato chips and gave her some money," Murphy said. 

    Melissa's mother searched for her daughter and reported her missing to police. 

    The worker found Melissa Tremblay's body on the tracks the next day at 3:45 p.m.

    "She didn't deserve this," said Ganley. "She deserved to have a full life. Her home life was not easy, to put it bluntly, it was unacceptable. She should never have been there."

    Despite an investigation, there are precious few clues in this case. 

    Among them, a possible sighting, across the street from the social club where a witness told police they may have seen Melissa talking to a man in a tan van. To this day, that tan van has never been located, and the tip is not verified.

    Andrea Ganley will never forget her friend, Melissa. And she is doing everything she can to keep Melissa's case alive. 

    "Evil walks the earth every day," Ganley told Bob Ward. " Somebody evil did this. There's no good enough reason why."

    If you have any information about the Unsolved Murder of Melissa Tremblay, call Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Essex County DA's office at 978-745-8908.

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