The Gist: Nearly 50 years after the heartbreaking disappearance and murder of eight-year-old Gretchen Harrington in Pennsylvania, charges have been filed against David Zandstra, an 83-year-old Marietta resident.
What Happened?: In August 1975, Gretchen Harrington vanished while on her way to a summer bible camp in Marple, Pennsylvania. Her remains were discovered in October of that year, but the case went cold.
The investigation took a turning point this year when a woman, who was friends with Zandstra’s daughter, came forward with information linking him to the crime.
According to prosecutors, Zandstra has admitted guilt in the killing.
Why It Matters: This case shows that justice does not have an expiration date. For decades, Gretchen Harrington’s death was an unresolved tragedy that haunted her community. Now, this case brings a form of closure to a long-open wound, demonstrating the relentless commitment of law enforcement to solving even the most enduring of cold cases.
What’s Next?: Zandstra was taken into custody in Georgia and denied bail. He refused to waive extradition to Pennsylvania, which means Pennsylvania’s District Attorney’s office will submit a petition for his return.
His DNA sample will also be compared to other open cases across the country. Investigators are urging anyone with information about Zandstra’s activities while he lived in Texas and Georgia to contact the Pennsylvania State Police.
Zandstra was a pastor at the Bible camp Gretchen was attending.
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