ESSEX COUNTY, Mass. (WHNT) — The family of 11-year-old Melissa Ann Tremblay released a statement Friday morning, following the recent arrest of a man in Cullman County who has been connected to her 1988 murder.

“We have never stopped thinking of Missy,” Melissa’s aunt, Danielle Root said.

Melissa’s family, who refers to her as “Missy,” says they never gave up hope and have always prayed for justice since that fateful September day 33 years ago. Her lifeless body was found in Lawrence, Massachusetts, left on the train tracks of the old Boston & Maine Railway Yard after she was reported missing.

Melissa Ann Tremblay
(Essex Co. District Attorney’s Office)

She had been stabbed multiple times, and her left leg was amputated by a train car after she died, according to Essex County District Attorney Johnathan Blodgett, who said, “Melissa has never been forgotten.”

Root said the following in an open statement:

”As the family of Melissa Tremblay we would like to address the recent arrest made in her case. First and foremost we would like to thank the police who have worked so hard over the years to make sure justice was found. Thank you to the Essex District Attorney’s Office for reaching out to us to make sure we knew what was going on. Especially Michelle Defeo who worked hard to locate us since we have moved out of state.  

Since her murder in 1988, we have always prayed for justice. We have never stopped thinking of Missy, despite what others, who say they are her friends, have said in the media in the past years. My aunt Janet may not have used the best judgement in allowing Missy to play around the neighborhood of the social club, but that is between her and God. She loved Missy and never intended any harm to come to her.  

We thank everyone for their prayers and so many of the kind words we have seen posted on the social media articles. We are very eager for the next steps that the Essex County DA’s office will be taking in the prosecution of Marvin McClendon.”

Respectuflly, Daneille Root, on behalf of my parents Paul and Barbara Root and my sister Cheryl Graham (Missy’s aunt, uncle and cousins). 

74-year-old Marvin ‘Skip’ McClendon was arrested at his Bremen, Alabama home on April 26 on a fugitive-from-justice warrant.

A former Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer, McClendon “has been a person of interest for a period of time,” DA Blodgett said in a press conference shortly after his arrest. “We believe we have the right person,” Blodgett said.

It was evidence from Missy’s body that was “instrumental,” officials say, in leading them to McClendon. The DA’s office says what that evidence was won’t be released just yet.

Marvin ‘Skip’ McClendon (Cullman Co. Sheriff’s Office)

Missy disappeared from the streets of Lawrence on a late summer evening, 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.

She had last been spotted by a pizza delivery driver during the late afternoon hours, according to AL.com. Her body would be found the next day, just a block away from the social club, authorities said.

Carrie Kimball with the Essex County DA’s office says the case, though never fully closed, was reopened “with intention” in 2014. Investigators, Kimball said, were digging through the case again “in earnest.”

McClendon is currently awaiting extradition to Massachusetts, as Kimball said he already waived rendition, agreeing to be transported back to the state. Once there, he is expected to be arraigned in District Court to start the process of a murder trial, Kimball stated.

Though there is no death penalty in Massachusetts, Kimball says the highest penalty McClendon faces, if convicted of first-degree murder, is a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.