The family of Melissa Tremblay, an 11-year-old found murdered in Lawrence in 1988, praised investigators in a statement Saturday for making a long-awaited arrest of a suspect in the girl’s killing.

Marvin “Skip” McClendon Jr., 74, was ordered held without bail after he pleaded not guilty to a murder charge during his arraignment Friday at Lawrence District Court.

Authorities have alleged the former Massachusetts correction officer, who was arrested April 26 at his home in Bremen, Ala., stabbed Melissa to death more than 30 years ago. The girl’s mangled body was discovered in a Lawrence railway yard in September 1988.

Tremblay’s family said in the statement that they are looking forward to the case proceeding and to see justice served.

“While we know there are many more steps, we are very confident that the District Attorney’s office will be just as vigilant in prosecuting this case as the detectives have been for all these years in finding Marvin McClendon,” the statement said.

They never thought anyone would be arrested and face a judge in connection with Tremblay’s murder, the statement said.

“While we are frustrated that it has taken so long, we are happy that the police have never given up on the case and in no way blame them for the length of time it has taken,” the family said in the statement.

Emily Sweeney of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

John Hilliard can be reached at

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