Retired Minister Charged with Murder of 8-Year-Old Girl in Decades-Old Cold Case

Retired Minister Charged with Murder of 8-Year-Old Girl in Decades-Old Cold Case

David Zandstra, an 83-year-old retired minister from Marietta, Georgia, has been charged with murder in connection with the 1975 slaying of 8-year-old Gretchen Harrington. The girl’s remains were discovered in Ridley Creek State Park in Media, Pennsylvania, two months after her disappearance. District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer announced the charges on Monday, stating that Zandstra is facing multiple counts, including criminal homicide, first-, second-, and third-degree murder, kidnapping of a minor, and related charges.

According to Stollsteimer, Zandstra, the pastor at Trinity Church Chapel, where Harrington was headed for Bible camp, offered her a ride in his car on the day she went missing. Allegedly, Zandstra took her to a wooded area, struck her in the head, and attempted to conceal her body. He then returned to the church and acted as if nothing had happened. When Harrington’s father contacted Zandstra to inquire about her whereabouts, Zandstra was the one to call the police.

The case remained unsolved for nearly five decades until new information from an unnamed friend of the victim led authorities to Zandstra. During an interview in Georgia, Zandstra allegedly confessed to the crime. He is currently fighting extradition to Pennsylvania.

Authorities are concerned that there may be additional victims and are urging anyone with information to come forward. Zandstra’s DNA will be compared to evidence from other open cases in Pennsylvania. The Christian Reformed Church lists Zandstra as having ministered in New Jersey, California, and Texas before retiring in 2005.

Gretchen Harrington’s family released a statement expressing hope that the person responsible for her death will be held accountable. They described Gretchen as a kind and gentle girl who had a lasting impact on those around her.

Author: CrimeDoor

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