LAWRENCE, Mass. — The retrial of an elderly Alabama Air Force veteran charged in the 1988 cold case slaying of a Salem, N.H., girl is now scheduled for next fall.

Marvin “Skip” McClendon Jr., 76, of Bremen, Ala., has remained held without bail since his arrest in April 2022.

His defense attorney Henry Fasoldt noted McClendon at this point has not been convicted of a crime and expressed concern his client would be behind bars for 2 1/2 years before he goes on trial again.

McClendon is charged with the murder of Melissa Ann “Missy” Tremblay, 11, of Salem, N.H. on Sept. 11, 1988. The girl was found stabbed, beaten and killed in a South Lawrence railroad yard.

Jurors were deadlocked in McClendon’s murder trial in late December and a mistrial was declared by presiding Judge Jeffrey Karp.

A hearing was held in Salem Superior Court Tuesday to determine the retrial date.

Fasoldt, who earlier this month filed a motion seeking McClendon’s release on $50,000 bail, specifically pointed to McClendon’s age and “weak evidence” presented by prosecutors during the December trial.

But Judge Thomas Dreschler pointed to McClendon’s age and the fact he’s facing life in prison without the possibility of parole, noting both are high incentives to flee.

Assistant District Attorney Jessica Strasnick said a number of witnesses in the case are not available to testify in court until next September. Additionally, Tremblay’s relatives also want to be present for the case. In December, several of the girl’s relatives essentially moved from Tennessee to the area so they could attend the trial, she said.

Strasnick also noted some witnesses must be provided hotel rooms, which are sparse in Salem during the month of October due to crowds of tourists visiting for Halloween. She suggested the trial could be held in Lawrence Superior Court, however, on the other side of the county.

A trial date of Sept. 30 was scheduled with jury empanelment first and then testimony in October.

No decision on McClendon’s bail request was made Tuesday.

“Marvin McClendon is not a flight risk nor a danger to the community. He is a 76-year-old military veteran in poor health. His first trial ended with a deadlocked jury. The evidence against him is weak,” Fasoldt wrote in the motion for a bail hearing.

Fasoldt wrote “the case against Mr. McClendon is circumstantial” and relies heavily on DNA evidence recovered from Tremblay’s fingernail clippings. The DNA recovered is “not unique to an individual person.”

Fasoldt described McClendon as an “excellent candidate for pretrial release,” noting he’s a veteran and a former Massachusetts corrections officer “who is now retired and relies upon a government pension to support himself.”

McClendon lives in Alabama down the road from his sister, Rebecca Greenwood, who is his primary social support, Fasoldt said. Greenwood attended the trial in December.

Also, McClendon suffers from a number of chronic health conditions and requires daily medication including blood thinners, medication for gout and diuretics.

In 1988, Tremblay was murdered in Lawrence near the LaSalle Social Club on Andover Street.

The girl was known to play in the adjacent neighborhoods while her mother and her mother’s boyfriend frequented the social club. She was last seen alive by a railroad employee and a pizza delivery driver, authorities said.

Tremblay’s mother has since died.

After more than a week of testimony from detectives, crime lab workers, relatives and others, the prosecution rested its case on Dec. 15.

Among the prosecution witnesses were retired State Trooper Kenneth Kelleher and Lawrence Police Detective Thomas Murphy, the original murder cases detectives from 1988. State Police Lt. Peter Sherber, who most recently investigated and went to Alabama to question McClendon and his relatives, also testified.

Daniel Hatch, who was a 13-year-old homeless boy in 1988, also testified he saw Tremblay sitting on the front steps of LaSalle Club that day with an area man named Michael Therrien. He said the two later walked across Broadway to the State Street area where they met up with another man.

Fasoldt on Dec. 18 called three defense witnesses, all doctors with backgrounds in DNA or forensics.

McClendon did not testify in his own defense.

(c)2024 The Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, Mass.)


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

(Joseph Barron/U.S. Air Force)

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now