Jan. 5—SALEM, Mass. — DNA taken from Marvin "Skip" McClendon matched samples taken from underneath the fingernails of an 11-year-old girl killed in Lawrence on Sept. 11, 1988, a prosecutor said in court Tuesday.
Assistant District Attorney Jessica Strasnick said McClendon's "actual DNA" was compared to samples taken from Melissa Ann "Missy" Tremblay's fingernails after her death.
McClendon's defense attorney, Henry Fasoldt, filed a motion to dismiss in the case, saying the DNA evidence collected in the case is "not sufficient" to support a first-degree murder indictment against his client.
He said prosecutors failed to show the DNA belonged to McClendon, instead of other male relatives, and that his client is a "factually innocent person."
However, Strasnick argued just the opposite in court Tuesday in a hearing about Fasoldt's motion to dismiss.
In court papers, she noted McClendon "voluntarily provided" a DNA sample to investigators when he was initially interviewed by Massachusetts State Police Lt. Peter Sherber in Alabama in 2021.
Using a walker, McClendon came from a lock-up area into the courtroom in Salem Superior Court on Tuesday. He sat at a table in the courtroom next to Fasoldt.
McClendon, 75, of Bremen, Alabama, was not arrested until late April of 2022. He was later in indicted by the Essex County grand jury for Tremblay's first-degree murder.
When Sherber interviewed McClendon for a second time in April of 2022, he "denied involvement in Melissa's death and suggested that he might have been 'set up' by inmates from the (Department of Correction). He also shifted blame to his brother, Timothy, and minimized his connections to Lawrence," Strasnick wrote in a memo opposing Fasoldt's motion to dismiss.
McClendon is a retired Massachusetts correctional officer.
Judge Salim Tabit took the matter under advisement Tuesday, making no immediate decision on the motion to dismiss.
Fasoldt has been McClendon's court-appointed attorney since his arrest. However, in court Tuesday a probation employee said McClendon "does not qualify for appointed counsel."
A hearing to discuss whether McClendon qualifies for court-appointed counsel was scheduled for early next month. The charge of first-degree murder carries the penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In 1988, McClendon, who was 41 at the time, was known as an "angry, violent drunk" who frequented strip clubs and had "relations" with women in the back of his van, Strasnick said at a previous court hearing.
McClendon is accused of stabbing Tremblay to death and leaving her body on the tracks near a rail freight terminal near South Broadway and Andover Street in Lawrence. When her body was found, her left leg had been severed by a train car.
Fasoldt has unsuccessfully tried to get McClendon released on $50,000 bail. He remains held without bail at Middleton Jail.
At the time of Tremblay's murder, McClendon lived in Lawrence and worked as a handyman. He was also employed by the state's Department of Correction on intermittent dates from 1970 to 2002. He receives a $35,000 annual pension from the state, Fasoldt said.
In 2002, McClendon moved to Bremen, Alabama, where he had a home at the end of dirt road on property surrounded by family members. In April, when he was arrested in the cold case murder, McClendon remarked to Massachusetts state troopers that "at least I got 20 years of my pension," Strasnick said.
In the motion to dismiss, Fasoldt wrote that McClendon, his father, and McClendon's brother, Timothy, were pinpointed in the investigation. Other McClendon relatives lived outside Massachusetts and denied visiting at the time of the murder, he wrote.
"The investigation ultimately focused on Mr. McClendon over these family members because of certain additional information; the fact that he is left-handed, his possible connections to Lawrence, his access to a van in 1988, his lifestyle in 1988, and his conduct and remarks to police during their investigation," Fasoldt wrote.
Fasoldt wrote his client was interviewed by police for three hours about Tremblay's murder. For the duration of the interview, "he repeatedly denied any involvement in Ms. Tremblay's death," Fasoldt said.
Also, Fasoldt wrote there are no known eye witnesses to the murder, is no indication McClendon knew Tremblay, and there "would be no apparent motive for him to kill her."
At Middleton Jail, McClendon is kept in protective custody in a cell and is not permitted to leave unless a guard escorts him.