- Ex-pastor David Zandstra confessed to abducting and killing an 8-year-old girl.
- Gretchen Harrington was murdered almost 50 years ago.
- She disappeared while walking to Bible camp.
David Zandstra was a pastor when he abducted and killed eight-year-old Gretchen Harrington in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
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According to Marietta, Georgia authorities, where David Zandstra now lives, he was arrested on July 17 after confessing to the heinous crime.
At the beginning of the investigation, Zandstra was not on the list of suspects. He was a friend of the little girl’s father, who was also a pastor at another church and was the one who reported her disappearance to the police.
Detectives found Gretchen Harrington’s body in a wooded area
The last time Gretchen Harrington’s family saw her alive was on the morning of August 15, 1975, when she happily left her home for summer Bible camp. She was supposed to spend an hour at Zandstra’s church and then go to the church run by her father at 11:00 in the morning, but she never arrived.
Two months after she disappeared, detectives found Gretchen’s body in a wooded area. The medical examiner’s report indicated that she had sustained «two or more blunt force impacts to the skull».
There were some inconsistencies in Zandstra’s statements to police
Initially, there were some inconsistencies in Zandstra’s statements but investigators found no evidence against him until they interviewed a childhood friend of his daughter in January of this year. More than 50 years later, she said he had groped her during a sleepover, leading police to question him again.
At first, Zandstra denied everything, but after presenting him with the new evidence, «the defendant admitted to having taken Gretchen into a wooded area (…). He stated that he parked the car and asked her to take off her clothes. When she refused, he hit her on the head with his fist,» District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said in a statement.
The investigation is ongoing
After reviewing the evidence, the DA decided to charge Zandstra with criminal homicide, murder, kidnapping of a minor and possession of an instrument of crime, according to the statement. The investigation against the former pastor is still active and they are looking for more possible victims in Pennsylvania, Plano, Texas, and Marietta, Georgia, all places where the defendant lived.
Gretchen Harrington’s disappearance marked the community for more than five decades. But justice is finally here. «Justice has no expiration date,» the district attorney said.