Claire Gravel was a 20-year old sophomore at Salem State University, then Salem State College, majoring in computer science. She was on a summer leave of absence with plans to return to school in the fall semester of 1986, but she never got the chance to. She was a native to North Andover, MA. As a young detective investigating the case said, she could have been any college student. According to friends and family, Claire was a bright young woman with a bright future ahead of her.
On the night of June 29, 1986, Claire may have taken a ride home from someone, but reports are conflicting. Rumors flew that a white Nissan pickup belonging to a man who had been harassing her at the pub was being sought by police, but was unsubstantiated. Police questioned people who were in and around the pub on the night in question, but no leads were found.
In a newspaper article from May 16, 1999, police say she was offered a ride home by a male friend. She asked to be dropped off at a credit union next to her apartment, St. Joseph’s Credit Union, which was across the street from the Salem State campus. The friend reported to police when being questioned – though not considered a suspect – that he dropped her off, but did not see her go into her apartment. That is where the trail of Claire Gravel ended and the search for her killer began.
Claire’s body was found the day after she disappeared, June 30, 1986, off Route 128 in Beverly, MA. It was initially reported that she had been severely beaten, but later reports contradicted those statements. The preliminary cause of death for Claire Gravel was strangulation, possibly with an instrument. Police have never said what kind of instrument may have been used.
In 2009, Detective Lt. Elaine Gill, who investigated Claire Gravel’s murder as one of her first cases on the force, retired and handed the files of information on to a new generation of police officers. In 2016, several articles were published asking for any information that people may have 30 years later. As of February 2020, police have not named any suspects or persons of interest in the case and Claire’s final hours remain a mystery.
If you believe you or someone you know may have seen something on July 29 and 30, 1986 in or around Salem, Massachusetts or Beverly, Massachusetts that could be helpful to the police, contact the Massachusetts State Police assigned to Essex County at (978) 745-8908.