September 24, 2023

On the morning of August 15, 1975, 8-year-old Gretchen Harrington left her dwelling in Broomall, Pennsylvania for a summer season Bible faculty. Trinity Chapel Christian Reformed Church was lower than half a mile down the highway, however Gretchen by no means made it.

Skeletal stays discovered close by in Ridley Creek State Park on October 14, 1975 have been later recognized as belonging to Gretchen. The reason for her dying, which was dominated a murder, was head accidents. However for many years nobody knew who killed her.

On Monday, prosecutors in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, west of Philadelphia, introduced the indictment of 83-year-old David Zandstra of Marietta, Georgia, in Gretchen’s homicide. Mr. Zandstra, who was a church minister within the Nineteen Seventies, was charged with culpable murder, kidnapping, possession of a homicide weapon, and homicide within the first, second, and third levels.

In accordance with the authorities, Mr Zandstra was taken into custody in Georgia on 17 July. He’s being held in Cobb County, Georgia, the place he was denied bail.

Jack Stolltimer, Delaware County District Legal professional, stated at a information convention Monday that Mr. Zandstra is in search of extradition to Pennsylvania and that his workplace is in search of a warrant from the Governor to carry Mr. Zandstra to Delaware County.

“We’re going to strive him, we’re going to convict him, and he’ll die in jail,” Mr. Stollsteimer stated. “After which he should discover out what the God in whom he professes religion has ready for individuals who are evil to our kids.”

The allegations leveled towards Mr Zandstra have introduced a way of closure to Broomall that has haunted Gretchen’s kidnapping and homicide for almost 48 years. Chief Brandon Graff of the Marple Township Police Division, which incorporates Broomall, advised a press convention that Gretchen’s homicide “remodeled this group.”

“Till August 1975, it was Any City, USA,” he stated. “After that day, all the things modified for the youngsters, for the mother and father, for the households, for everybody, as a result of nobody else may do something within the innocence they did earlier than it occurred.”

Gretchen Harrington household photograph

The Gretchen household stated in a press release on Monday that they “extremely hope that the particular person chargeable for the heinous crime dedicated towards our Gretchen can be dropped at justice.”

“It is laborious to specific the feelings we really feel once we take one other step in direction of justice,” the relations stated. “The kidnapping and homicide of Gretchen modified our household without end and we miss her each single day.”

It was unclear whether or not Mr. Zandstra had a lawyer. His spouse Margaret Zandstra didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon Monday.

The web site of the Christian Reformed Church lists Mr. Zandstra as a retired minister and states that he was ordained on September 20, 1965. Along with Trinity Chapel Christian Reformed Church in Broomall, Mr. Zandstra additionally served in church buildings in New Jersey, California, and Texas from 1965 to 2005.

The Christian Reformed Church stated in a press release Monday that it desires to “specific our condolences to the Gretchen Harrington household.”

“We’re additionally saddened to be taught {that a} CRC pastor was arrested for her homicide,” the church stated. “We’re conscious that we reside in a damaged and sinful world the place violence can occur wherever and by anybody – even inside our church buildings and by leaders whom we maintain to the best requirements.”

The Delaware County District Legal professional’s workplace stated it took a DNA pattern from Mr. Zandstra, which can be in contrast with DNA collected in different open instances in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation.

“We’re involved that there could also be extra victims who could have been sexually assaulted by this particular person,” Mr. Stollsteimer stated. “We wish to maintain him accountable for all the things he did.”

Gretchen was alleged to be on the Christian Reformed Trinity Chapel Church by 9:30 am on August 15, 1975, in keeping with a police assertion. Round 11 a.m. that very same day, Harold Harrington, Gretchen’s father and church minister, discovered she was not there and known as the Marple Township Police Division to report her lacking.

Within the weeks that adopted, the police spoke to a number of folks to piece collectively what occurred to Gretchen. They interrogated Mr. Zandstru twice, on 19 August and once more on 30 October. He advised them that he had picked up a number of kids and brought them to church the day Gretchen disappeared, however he denied seeing her that day, in keeping with the grievance.

The police could not discover any leads that would carry them any nearer to discovering out who killed Gretchen, and the case was dropped. Then, earlier this yr, investigators interviewed a girl named “CI #1” within the grievance, who stated she went to highschool with Gretchen and Zoe Harrington, one in all Gretchen’s sisters.

On January 2, the lady advised investigators that she was buddies with Mr. Zandstra’s daughters and that she typically performed at Zandstra’s home and stayed in a single day. The girl advised police that in the course of the two nights she was woken up by Mr Zandstra touching her groin space.

Ultimately, in keeping with the lady, she knowledgeable her mother and father that the Zandstras moved to Plano, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, shortly thereafter, in keeping with the grievance.

Throughout interrogation, the lady confirmed investigators the diary she saved when she was a lady. In a single entry dated September 15, 1975, she wrote, “Guess what? The person tried to kidnap Holly twice,” referring to a lady in her class.

“It is a secret so I can not inform anybody, however I feel he may need kidnapped Gretchen. I feel it was Mr Z,” she wrote, referring to Mr Zandstra.

The interview and journal entry prompted investigators to trace down Mr. Zandstra, who lived in Marietta, northwest of Atlanta.

Investigators questioned Mr. Zandstru on the Cobb County Police Division in Marietta on July 17. At first, Mr Zandstra denied seeing Gretchen the day she disappeared, in keeping with a police assertion. However ultimately, as they are saying, he confessed.

He advised police that he noticed Gretchen strolling to church that morning and that he picked her up in his inexperienced AMC Rambler station wagon. However as a substitute of taking her to church, Mr Zandstra advised investigators, he drove her to a close-by wooded space, parked the automotive, after which advised Gretchen to undress, however she refused.

In accordance with the police grievance, he advised police he ejaculated whereas Gretchen was within the automotive with him. After that, in keeping with Mr. Zandstra, he punched Gretchen, and her head bled. Realizing that Gretchen seemed useless, Mr Zandstra advised police he “tried to cowl her half-naked physique with sticks after which left the place,” the grievance stated.

“He killed this unlucky younger woman together with his naked arms after which lied about it for 48 years,” Stollsteimer stated at a press convention on Monday.

Alain Delaquerière contributed to analysis.

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