A Massachusetts College Student’s 1986 Cold Case Murder Was Finally Solved 36 Years Later

20-year-old Claire Gravel spent the night of June 29, 1986 with friends at a pub. After she was dropped off at her Salem apartment early the next morning, she was never seen alive again.

August 29, 2022
Claire Gravel, 20, was found strangled to death in the woods on June 30, 1986.

20-year-old Claire Gravel spent the night of June 29, 1986 with friends at a pub. After she was dropped off at her Salem apartment early the next morning, she was never seen alive again.

Photo by: Essex District Attorney's Office

Essex District Attorney's Office

Claire Gravel was only 20 years old when she was brutally murdered back in 1986 in Salem, Massachusetts. Her case remained cold until Aug. 24, 2022 when Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett announced that they had charged somebody with her murder.

John Carey, a 63-year-old man who is currently serving a prison sentence for the attempted murder of a Hamilton woman in 2007, has been indicated for the murder of Gravel.

Officers had been following this lead for over ten years based on physical evidence recovered from Claire’s clothing and new forensic technology. At the Aug. 24 press conference, Blodgett announced that a new lead first developed in 2012 with the surviving physical evidence. He said, “Assistant district attorneys, state police detectives assigned to the Essex DA's office, and Salem and Beverly police worked diligently to bring about the result we have today.”

Claire Gravel was a sophomore at Salem State College at the time of her murder. On June 29, 1986, the 20-year-old from North Andover went to a pub in Salem with her friends, according to a press release from the Essex District Attorney’s Office. She was dropped off at her apartment in Salem between 1:30 a.m. and 1:45 a.m., and she was never seen alive again.

On the afternoon of June 30, 1986, Gravel’s body was discovered in the woods on the side of Route 128 in Beverly by three workmen. The medical examiner determined that she had been strangled to death.

Blodgett shared that Claire’s father, Robert Gravel, had carried a photograph of his daughter in his wallet for 36 years. He added, “We continuously review cold cases, hoping that new techniques and a fresh look will result in a breakthrough. We are mindful of the victims, and their family members who continue to want answers. They are not forgotten."

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