ESSEX COUNTY, Mass. (WHNT) — It was DNA evidence that linked an Alabama man to the murder of an 11-year-old Massachusetts girl in 1988, according to the Essex County Assistant District Attorney.

Marvin C. “Skip” McClendon, Jr., 74, was arrested on April 26, 2022, at his Bremen, Alabama, home on a fugitive-from-justice warrant. He pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the killing of Melissa “Missy” Tremblay over 30 years ago.

At a court hearing in September, ADA Jessica Strasnick specified where that DNA evidence was found leading to McClendon’s arrest.

“Specifically, the defendant’s DNA was found under the fingernails of the 11-year-old victim. The defendant offers no innocent explanation for this discovery,” Strasnick wrote in court papers.

At the time of Missy’s death, McClendon, then 41, was in and out of work as a Corrections Officer for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections.

Missy’s body was found lying on the train tracks of the old Boston & Maine Railway Yard. She had been stabbed multiple times. According to DA Johnathan Blodgett, her left leg had been amputated by a train car after she died.

She had disappeared from the streets of Lawrence, Massachusetts, on a late September evening in 1988 while playing around the neighborhood of the LaSalle Social Club. She was reported missing by her mother around 9 p.m. after she and her boyfriend had frantically searched for her.

Her body was found the next day, just one block away from the social club, authorities said.

A van that had been seen in the area was similar to a van that the suspect drove at the time, prosecutors said. No motive for the killing was disclosed.

At the time, authorities found that McClendon had lived in Chelmsford during the time of Missy’s murder and had multiple ties to the Lawrence area — including a church he attended.

The case was never fully closed, and Missy’s family never gave up hope that her killer would one day be caught.

McClendon was indicted for the murder on June 15 by an Essex County grand jury. On May 13, he pleaded not guilty at an arraignment hearing.

McClendon’s defense lawyer, Henry Fasoldt, filed a motion to dismiss the case against him. That motion will be argued at a hearing set for Dec. 27.

The 74-year-old remains in the custody of the Middleton House of Correction in Massachusetts without bail. He is reportedly kept in “protective custody” and isn’t allowed to leave his cell unless escorted by guards.

Fasoldt wrote in a court document that as a retired corrections officer accused of murdering a child, “[McClendon] is at an elevated risk of violence from other inmates during his incarceration,” adding that “in practice, this means that [he] does not leave his cell until approximately 11 p.m. each night. At that time, he is permitted to shower, followed by a short period of recreation.”

If convicted, the charge of first-degree murder carries a penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.