Marvin McClendon held without bail for infanticide

Marvin McClendon appears in court

An Alabama man charged in Massachusetts with a 1988 Cold Case murder was denied bail on Friday.

Marvin “Skip” C McClendon Jr.74, is accused of stabbing an 11-year-old Melissa Ann Tremblay to death and then dumped her body in the path of an oncoming train in Lawrence, Mass.

Her body was found at the Boston & Maine Railway Yard on September 12, 1988 – a year after the B&M Railroad finally ceased operations.

As Law&Crime previously reportedthe defendant, a former Massachusetts Department of Justice official, was charged and arrested as a fugitive from justice in Bremen, Alabama, late last month.

“Evidence recovered from the victim’s body was instrumental in the resolution of this case,” the Essex District Attorney said Jonathan W Blodgett said at the time of McClendon’s arrest. “The suspect resided in Chelmsford in 1988 and had multiple connections to Lawrence.”

Investigators previously said the defendant had been considered a “person of interest” in the case “for some time”.

“We think we have the right person,” Blodgett said in April, but declined to comment on the specific evidence.

Prosecutors elaborated on those details during Friday’s indictment hearing before a judge in Lawrence.

“Various DNA advances have allowed the Commonwealth to focus on the McClendon name,” the prosecutor said Jessica Strassnick said during the brief hearing it didn’t take five minutes.

In 2014, the prosecutor explained, the Massachusetts State Crime Lab created a DNA profile from Tremblay’s remains that refined the potential suspect’s paternal lineage.

“Through investigations, the Commonwealth has located and taken DNA samples from various McClendons,” Strasnick said. “DNA samples were taken from the defendant before you, Marvin McClendon, whose DNA profile matched the DNA profile found on Melissa Tremblay’s body.”

“Investigators understood that it could be anyone in Mr. McClendon’s paternal line and began focusing on Mr. McClendon and his family who were in the area and had ties to Massachusetts,” the prosecutor continued . “Most of his family have been questioned. They had never been to Massachusetts. In fact, they lived in Alabama.”

Strasnick further claimed that during several police interrogations, the defendant “supplied information to investigators about the events that was never made public.” Investigators also discovered that McClendon had previously owned a van “consistent with what witnesses she spoke to saw.”

Tremblay was playing outside in the rail yard the day she died. Witnesses described a van in the area at the time of her murder. Just a block away, her mom and her mom’s boyfriend were dining at the LaSalle Social Club.

“While her mother and her mother’s boyfriend stayed at the club, Melissa gambled in the adjacent neighborhoods and was last seen in the late afternoon hours by a railroad worker and a pizza delivery man,” Blodgett noted last month.

A frantic search ensued and the girl was reported missing that night. She was found the next day. A passing train had amputated her leg.

Strasnick also said investigators believed the fatal blow to the girl’s neck was delivered by someone who is left-handed. She said the defendant was the only member of his family who was left-handed.

The defense did not plead for bail, but asked that the decision be taken without prejudice, saying it was “equally plausible” that the DNA found on the girl’s body could have come from another McClendon.

The attorney also disputed the probative value of the left-handed theory.

“Regarding the left-handed nature of the wound” Karl Heinrich Fasoldt said, “Most people have two hands, and most people can use both.”

“I was 10 years old when that happened, so you picture the person in your head and what they could possibly look like and who they could be, and then you look and you see it’s a frail old man,” Tremblay’s friend Sherry Carignan said outside of court in comments reported by Boston CBS subsidiary WBZ-TV. “I didn’t think that day would ever come, it’s been so long, the case had gone cold and it was hard to follow when I was ten years old.”

[image via screengrab/WMUR]

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James Brien

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