Salem, MA

Man Arrested in the 36-Year-Old Cold Case Murder of Claire Gravel

True Crime Mysteries (Megan)

Claire was found murdered in 1986 a few miles from her home in Salem, Massachusetts
Claire GravelPhoto byEssex District Attorney's Office

It was a warm summer evening on June 29, 1986, in Salem, Massachusetts, when Claire Gravel celebrated with her softball team at Magleashes’ Pub. The twenty-year-old student was studying computer science at Salem State College.

After a few drinks, one of her friends dropped her off at her apartment around 1:30 AM. After that, little is known about what happened to Claire.

The following afternoon a body was found in Beverly, Massachusetts, only a few miles from Salem. It was a young woman who had been severely beaten and strangled to death. The young woman was later identified as Claire.

Law enforcement had little evidence to work with. No one knew of anyone who would have wanted to harm Claire. The friend who dropped her off stated that they didn’t see Claire go into her apartment as it was too dark and that she might have been kidnapped on her way in. No one knew of her dating anyone or having any issues with a stalker.

None of her neighbors heard anything suspicious or remembered seeing anything out of the ordinary, but many were sound asleep by that time.

Eventually, the case went cold and stayed cold for nearly four decades.

In 2012, Claire’s case was reopened by cold case detectives, and evidence from the initial investigation was retested for DNA. In 2022, the results of that retesting were made public when an Essex County grand jury indicted sixty-two-year-old John Carey.

Carey was already incarcerated at MCI Concord on a 2008 conviction for attempted murder. In 2007, Carey went to a neighbor’s house where Rosemary Diskin was home. Carey stated that he was meeting her husband for a drink, and when she revealed he wasn’t home, Carey attacked her. He had brought a tie with him and attempted to strangle her with it. However, Carey didn’t know her twelve-year-old son was home at the time, and he attacked Carey with a knife from the kitchen and stabbed him in the back, allowing the two to seek help.

Rosemary was certain that had her son not intervened, Carey had intended to kill her. Carey later revealed to law enforcement that he found asphyxiation erotic and claimed that the encounter was consensual. A claim that Rosemary stated was a way to revictimize her by having people think she was having an affair with her neighbor. During the investigation, law enforcement discovered Carey’s computer was filled with images and video clips of women being strangled.

Ultimately a jury found Carey guilty of attempted murder, and he was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Carey had been due for early release on good behavior. Rosemary had been alerted to his release and was grateful that the new indictment had prevented him from being released, as she had been scared that he would come after her again if he got out.

More will be released on what evidence the state has against Carey regarding the murder of Claire Gravel will be revealed in further court proceedings. At this time, there is no update on when his next day in court will be.

Claire Gravel’s family, her father, and siblings said in a statement to the media that they are relieved and very, very grateful that a suspect has been identified after so many years.

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