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Former Massachusetts corrections worker arrested in 1988 killing of New Hampshire girl

Marvin C. McClendon, 74, of Bremen, Alabama, had numerous ties to Lawrence, Massachusetts, where Melissa Ann Tremblay's body was found in a rail yard, officials said.

A retired corrections worker living in Alabama was arrested on suspicion of fatally stabbing an 11-year-old girl found in a Massachusetts rail yard in 1988, authorities said.

Marvin C. McClendon Jr., 74, of Bremen, Alabama, was taken into custody Tuesday on a fugitive-from-justice warrant in connection with the discovery of Melissa Ann Tremblay's body on Sept. 12, 1988, Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said at a news conference Wednesday.

Melissa, of Salem, New Hampshire, was found at the old Boston & Maine Railway Yard in Lawrence, Massachusetts, about 30 miles north of Boston, he said. In addition to being stabbed, the girl's body had been run over by a train car, Blodgett said.

Image: Melissa Tremblay
Melissa Tremblay.Essex County District Attorney's Office

“Melissa has never been forgotten,” he said. “Evidence recovered from the victim’s body was instrumental in solving this case.”

Blodgett declined to say what that evidence was. McClendon will be arraigned Thursday in an Alabama court. More details about what led investigators to him will be released then, Blodgett said.

He declined to say whether McClendon knew Melissa or whether it was a random attack. McClendon is jailed in Cullman County, Alabama, Blodgett said.

The timing of his return to Massachusetts depends on his decision to waive extradition, prosecutors said.

It was not immediately clear Wednesday whether McClendon had retained an attorney. His relatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Footprints and blood were discovered near where the sixth grader's body was found, indicating a struggle had taken place, according to The Eagle-Tribune newspaper of North Andover.

Melissa visited Lawrence with her mother and the woman's boyfriend the day before her body was found, Blodgett said. Melissa’s mom and the man went to the LaSalle Social Club while Melissa played outside.

She disappeared from a nearby neighborhood, and her frantic mother and the boyfriend reported her missing that evening.

McClendon, who was described as a retired Massachusetts Correction Department employee, lived in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, at the time of Melissa’ slaying, but he had numerous ties to Lawrence, Blodgett said.

Blodgett said he did not know whether McClendon worked for the department at the time of the slaying.

Investigators worked the case diligently since 2014, Blodgett said. He added that police and prosecutors thoroughly pursue cold cases to get justice for victims’ families.

“We continue to review old cases hoping that new techniques and a fresh look will result in a breakthrough. We are mindful of the victims and their family members who continue to want answers," Blodgett said. "They are not forgotten, and we will pursue those responsible … for however long that it takes."