74-year-old Cullman County man enters not guilty plea on murder charge in 1988 cold case

McClendon pleaded not guilty on July 7 on first-degree murder charge
Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 12:36 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 7, 2022 at 2:02 PM CDT
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CULLMAN, Ala. (WAFF) - A 74-year-old man arrested in Alabama in connection to a cold case murder investigation beginning over 30 years ago pleaded not guilty to murder in Massachusetts on Thursday.

On April 26, Marvin McClendon, 74, was arrested by the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office and charged with a murder that he allegedly committed in 1988 in Essex County, Massachusetts.

According to the District Attorney’s office in Lawrence, Massachusetts, McClendon was arraigned on May 13 on one count of first-degree murder. A plea of not guilty was entered for him, though he did not speak.

On June 15, an Essex County Grand Jury indicted McClendon on first-degree murder charges for the homicide of 11-year-old Melissa Ann Tremblay in Lawrence, MA. The case will be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Essex County Superior Court.

On July 7, McClendon pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Salem Superior Court. He was ordered held without bail by Judge Thomas Drechsler.

The case is scheduled for a pre-trial conference on August 23.

McClendon is being held in Essex County House of Corrections in Middleton, MA.

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett updates Melissa Tremblay case

According to the Essex County District Attorney, McClendon is suspected of murdering 11-year-old Melissa Tremblay in September 1988.

11-year-old Melissa Tremblay
11-year-old Melissa Tremblay(Essex County District Attorney's Office)

“I want to thank everyone involved in this investigation from beginning to end,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. “Their tireless pursuit of justice for Melissa has brought us to this moment. We never forgot about Melissa, nor did we give up on holding her killer accountable.”

Marvin McClendon
Marvin McClendon(Cullman County Sheriff's Office)

In 1988, the body of 11-year-old Melissa Ann Tremblay was found in the old Boston & Maine Railway Yard near Lawrence, MA. She had been stabbed to death.

Read more from the Essex District Attorney’s release below:

During the death investigation, police learned that Melissa Tremblay had accompanied her mother and mother’s boyfriend to the LaSalle Social Club at 397 Andover Street in Lawrence on Sunday, September 11, 1988. While her mother and mother’s boyfriend remained inside the club, Melissa played in the adjacent neighborhoods and was last seen by a railroad employee and pizza delivery driver during the late afternoon hours.

That night, Melissa’s mother and mother’s boyfriend frantically searched the area and then reported her missing to the Lawrence Police around 9:00 pm.

Over the years, scores of witnesses, suspects, and persons of interest were interviewed by police.

Assistant District Attorneys and State Police Detectives assigned to the Essex District Attorney’s Office specializing in cold cases have worked diligently on this case since 2014. Evidence recovered from the victim’s body was instrumental in solving the case.

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

Essex Victim Advocates contacted surviving members of Melissa’s family last night and again this morning.

DA Blodgett thanked Essex Chief Homicide Prosecutor Jessica Strasnick and Appeals Unit ADA Marina Moriarty; the Essex State Police Detective Unit, headed by Captain Steve McDonald and lead investigator Lieutenant Peter Sherber and Lawrence Police Detectives, both current and retired, particularly retired detective Thomas Murphy, for their tireless and relentless pursuit of justice for Melissa.

At this time, McClendon is being held in the Cullman County Detention Center until he can be extradited to Massachusetts.

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