McClendon arraigned in 1988 murder of 11-year-old girl

Jul. 7—SALEM — Thursday was an emotional day for the surviving family members of Melissa “Missy” Tremblay.

The man who authorities now say stabbed the 11-year-old girl to death and left her on the tracks near a rail freight terminal near South Broadway and Andover Street in Lawrence in September 1988, was arraigned in Salem Superior Court on a first-degree murder charge.

Marvin “Skip” McClendon, 75, of Bremen, Alabama, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Judge Thomas Drechsler ordered that McClendon remain held without bail, but did issue the order without prejudice in case McClendon and his attorney want to ask for bail — something rarely granted in murder cases — in the future.

No new details were provided in court regarding the case.

But the brief proceeding was the first chance some family members of Tremblay had to see the man charged with killing her.

Danielle Root, Tremblay’s cousin, held back tears as she addressed the news media outside Salem’s Ruane Judicial Center moments later.

With her parents, Barbara and Paul Root, standing behind her, Root said her family never gave up hope they would find the person who killed Missy.

“On behalf of her family, I want to thank everyone who has worked on her case over the years and never given up, and because of that, we were able to sit in a courtroom today and face her killer,” Danielle Root told reporters.

“It’s two months shy of 33 years since we lost her and we have never given up hope that her killer would be found,” she said. “Over the years, some people said we didn’t care about her. That’s not true. She’s always been in our thoughts.”

And while many have also blamed Tremblay’s late mother, who was at a nearby social club on the night her daughter was killed, Root sought to put the blame on just one person.

“Many people blame my aunt for Missy’s death,” she said. “While I don’t believe she made the right decision that night, that’s between her and God. Ultimately the only person responsible for Missy’s death is the man we saw in court today, Marvin McClendon. He made the decision to take a life that night for whatever reason and he’s finally going to face a judge and jury for that decision.”

The 33-year-old “cold case” was solved, prosecutor Jessica Strasnick previously said in court, when investigators were able to use the DNA of relatives of McClendon to identify him as a suspect.

McClendon, who lived in Chelmsford at the time, was working as a handyman at a church in Lawrence. He had also worked as a corrections officer.

Investigators have not disclosed a motive or any details of what they believe happened prior to Tremblay’s death.

Filings in the case show that Strasnick has turned over more than 40 pieces of evidence in the case, including an interview investigators conducted with McClendon on March 15, 2021.

The filings do not include the actual evidence or documents, however.

The prosecutor will also turn over a copy of McClendon’s interstate criminal history to the defense.

“He expects to hold the government to its very high burden,” Henry Fasoldt, McClendon’s attorney, told reporters when asked for comment.

Drechsler ordered both the prosecution and defense to complete a pretrial conference report by next month and set a hearing for Aug. 23 to deal with any issues concerning the exchange of evidence, known as “discovery.”

McClendon turned 75 on Sunday. Tremblay’s cousin believes that while McClendon eluded justice for decades, he will face it now, and later as well.

“Not only will he face judgment here on earth, he will face God’s judgment one day too,” Root said.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis

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