In a stunning turn of events, an 83-year-old former pastor, David Zandstra, finds himself arrested for the 1975 murder of young Gretchen Harrington, an eight-year-old attending a Bible camp in Broomall, Pennsylvania.
It was a tranquil summer day in 1975 when Gretchen Harrington set out for a Bible camp nestled in the heart of Broomall, Pennsylvania. However, her innocent journey took a tragic turn, forever altering the course of her life. Now, after decades of uncertainty, a pastor with ties to the Harrington family stands charged with a heinous crime that has shaken the community to its core.
The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office recently announced the arrest of David Zandstra, now 83 years old and residing in Marietta, Georgia. Zandstra, who once served as a pastor at the Trinity Church Chapel Christian Reform Church where Gretchen’s father also ministered, has been charged with criminal homicide, encompassing first, second, and third-degree murder, along with kidnapping of a minor and possession of an instrument of crime. Shockingly, Zandstra has admitted to his involvement in this heart-wrenching tragedy.
The heart of this story dates back to August 15, 1975, a day that should have been marked by youthful innocence and spiritual exploration. Gretchen’s destination was a Bible camp co-hosted by two local churches, the Trinity Church Chapel and the Reformed Presbyterian Church where her father held his pastoral duties. However, her journey to the camp ended in an unimaginable tragedy that would haunt the community for decades.
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Gretchen’s absence that fateful morning raised immediate concern. Her father, alarmed by her non-appearance at his church, reached out to Zandstra’s wife. The search for Gretchen escalated, with Zandstra himself notifying the authorities about her disappearance. A grueling two-month search finally revealed her skeletal remains in Ridley Creek State Park, leading authorities to classify her death as a homicide, the result of blunt head injuries.
The breakthrough in this long-unsolved mystery came in the form of a courageous witness, identified as “CI #1,” who stepped forward earlier this year. Having attended school with Gretchen and Zandstra’s daughter, the witness shared her own disturbing encounters with Zandstra. These revelations ignited a new line of investigation, and Zandstra was confronted by law enforcement in Marietta, Georgia.
Initially, Zandstra denied any involvement in Gretchen’s tragic fate. However, when presented with the allegations made by the witness, he shockingly confessed to the crime. His confession unveiled a chilling sequence of events: On that summer morning, Zandstra spotted Gretchen walking to church and offered her a ride. Instead of guiding her to the camp, he drove her to a secluded area, where he committed unspeakable acts of violence. Refusing to comply with his demands, Gretchen met a devastating fate at the hands of the man she knew as a pastor.
The arrest of David Zandstra has not only reignited painful memories but also kindled hope within Gretchen’s family. The Harringtons’ statement resonates with their enduring pain and their determination to see justice served: “The abduction and murder of Gretchen has forever altered our family, and we miss her every single day. We are extremely hopeful that the person who is responsible for this heinous crime will be held accountable.”
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer’s resolve is unwavering: “We’re going to try him, we’re going to convict him, and he’s going to die in jail.” This long-awaited reckoning symbolizes not only the pursuit of justice but also the indomitable spirit of a community determined to ensure that those who prey on innocence are held accountable for their actions.
Pastor arrested for 1975 murder of 8-year-old girl
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