Retired Pastor Charged with 1975 Cold Case Murder of 8-Year-Old Girl

Authorities Monday provided fresh information regarding the 1975 slaying of Gretchen Harrington in Marple Township, Delaware County.

According to the office of Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, charges have been brought against David Zandstra, 83, a former church minister from Marietta, Georgia, for his alleged involvement in the abduction and murder of 8-year-old Harrington, who happened almost 50 years ago.

“David Zandstra is a monster. He is every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Stollsteimer on Monday. “He killed that poor girl.”

Zandstra was accused of murder, kidnapping a juvenile, and other charges, according to court documents.

On August 15, 1975, Harrington vanished as she was making her way from her house in Marple Township to a Bible school a short distance away.

According to Stollsteimer, Zandstra was a reverend at Trinity Christian Reformed Church at the time, one of the two places of worship that Harrington frequently frequented. According to Stollsteimer, Zandstra offered her a ride as she was making her own way to Bible camp.

Imposter posted a tweet that confirms the news:

Zandstra apparently revealed in a statement to police that he had taken her to a remote location, told her to take off her clothes, and when she refused, he ejaculated in front of her before beating her to death with his hands.

Weeks later, on October 14, that year, in Ridley Creek State Park, more than seven miles from Harrington’s house, her body was found.

“This man is evil. 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,” said Stollsteimer.

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The family of Gretchen Harrington stated in a statement that they are “extremely hopeful” that those accountable for Gretchen’s death will be brought to justice.

β€œWith today’s announcement of an arrest, we are extremely hopeful that the person who is responsible for the heinous crime that was committed against our Gretchen will be held accountable. It’s difficult to express the emotions that we are feeling as we take one step closer to justice. 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. Even now, when people share their memories of her, the first thing they talk about is how amazing she was and still is…at just 8 years old, she had a lifelong impact on those around her. The abduction and murder of Gretchen has forever altered our family and we miss her every single day. We are grateful for the continual pursuit of justice by law enforcement and we want to thank the Pennsylvania State Police for never stopping in their constant search for answers. We would not be here today if it was not for them. As a family we ask for privacy at this time as we continue to digest this information. Thank you for your understanding, love, and continued support. It means the world to us,” read a statement from the family.

Following Zandstra’s arrest, the Christian Reformed Church in North America also released a statement.

“[W]e would like to extend our condolences to the family of Gretchen Harrington. We were heartbroken to hear about her death. We are additionally grieved to hear that a CRC pastor has been arrested for the murder,” read the statement. “We recognize that we live in a broken and sinful world, where violence can happen anywhere – even within our churches and by those we hold to the highest standards. Yet, we strive for our congregations to be places of peace, welcome, hospitality and safety for those who attend. As a denomination, we encourage all congregations to have safe church policies and procedures in place to help prevent abuse.”

Officials announced on Monday that a book on the cold case murder, recently published by a pair of authors with ties to the Philadelphia region, contributed to solving the case.

According to officials, Zandstra is presently being held by Georgian police, but he is resisting extradition.

When contacted for comment on the matter, the legal team defending Zandstra said they were aware of the accusations against him but did not immediately have anything to say.

New information will be added to this account as it becomes available.

We’ll update you if this news changes. Visit our websiteΒ FocushillsboroΒ for the latest news on this issue.

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