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."

Next Up

DNA From A Cigarette Helped Solve The Murder Of A Vermont Woman After Five Decades

After 52 years, police identified the man who viciously murdered a 24-year-old schoolteacher in the summer of 1971.

5 Questions The Gabby Petito Case Brought Up About Domestic Violence

The murder of 22-year-old Gabby Petito at the hands of her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, sparked a national conversation about the signs of domestic abuse.

30 Years Later, Tech CEO Charged With The 1992 Cold Case Murder Of Roommate’s Girlfriend

Advances in DNA technology led to the July 2022 arrest of John Kevin Woodward for the murder of 25-year-old Laurie Houts.

Fugitive Captured In Mexico After Deadly Shooting

In August 2022, U.S. Marshals tracked Jonathan Dorado to Tijuana, Mexico where he was arrested and extradited back to the United States. Dorado is behind bars at the Merced County Jail in California where he faces murder and attempted murder charges.

Who Was Notorious Jewel Thief Jack “Murph The Surf” Murphy?

Not all of the details Murphy shared about his life can be verified, but what we know to be true is a fascinating tale about a daytime surfer who moonlighted as a high-end thief.

Man Sentenced For Killing Teen After She Visited His Garage Sale

In August 2019, Arthur Jensen lured 17-year-old Adara Bunn back to his home after meeting her at his garage sale and promising her Disney merchandise for her collection. When she arrived back at his home, he murdered her.

Missouri Pair Allegedly Kidnapped Woman, Held Her Captive In Cage, Authorities Say

An anonymous tipster reportedly sent the FBI a photo of the victim restrained and partially nude.

Virginia Woman In D.C. For A Concert Murdered In Hotel Room

Christy Bautista reportedly yelled for help before she was stabbed to death on March 31 inside a hotel room in Washington, D.C.

Man Confesses To Killing His Uber Driver, Posting A Video Of The Attack On Facebook

A 29-year-old man allegedly told police he had wanted to kill someone on Dec. 8 and that he didn’t pick his victim, “Uber picked her.”

‘Justice Has Been Done’: Genetic Genealogy Solves Soldier's 1987 Murder

A Colorado jury has found former Fort Carson soldier Michael Whyte guilty of strangling fellow servicemember Darlene Krashoc to death.