Officials stated that a former pastor was apprehended for the murder of an 8-year-old girl in Pennsylvania, a case which had remained unsolved for many years. The ex-pastor confessed to abducting and slaying the child as she was en route to a religious camp.
According to the Delaware County District Attorney’s office, a currently 83-year-old man named David Zandstra reportedly approached Gretchen Harrington back on August 15, 1975, in his green station wagon and extended an invitation for her to join him for a drive.
The malevolent pastor informed authorities that he subsequently escorted the young girl to an isolated location, instructing her to remove her garments. Upon her refusal, he proceeded to fatally assault her.
The clergyman, who had a connection with the family, claimed that he returned to the church following the murder.
“David Zandstra is a monster. He is every parent’s worst nightmare,” during a press conference on Monday, Delco District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer stated, as reported by NBC Philadelphia.
“He killed this poor 8-year-old girl he knew and who trusted him. And, then he acted as if he was a family friend, not only during her burial and the period after that, but for years.”
Weeks after her disappearance, Gretchen’s body was found in Ridley Creek State Park, a distance of over seven miles from her residence. The remains were in a skeletal state.
During January, investigators conducted an interview with a woman who professed to be the closest companion of Zandstra’s daughter. She made an accusation that Zandstra inappropriately touched her while she stayed overnight at his residence when she was just ten years old.
Following the detectives’ confrontation, the pastor confessed to the accusations of sexual assault, disclosing his involvement in the abduction and murder of Gretchen.
Zandstra, currently residing in Georgia, faces charges of criminal homicide, first, second, and third-degree murder, abduction of a child, and possession of a weapon.
The family of the girl who was killed issued a statement expressing their strong optimism that the individual responsible will face consequences.
“It’s difficult to express the emotions that we are feeling as we take one step closer to justice,” the family noted in their statement.
“Gretchen was only 8 years old when she was suddenly taken away from us on her way to church on Friday, August 15, 1975. If you met Gretchen, you were instantly her friend. She exuded kindness to all and was sweet and gentle.”