June 16, 2024
June 16, 2024
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Retired Georgia minister arrested for killing 8-year-old girl in 1975

An elderly clergyman in Georgia has been accused of murder in connection with the killing of an 8-year-old girl whose remains were discovered in southeastern Pennsylvania nearly 50 years ago.

David Zandstra, 83, from the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, faces charges of criminal homicide, first-, second-, and third-degree murder, kidnapping of a minor, and related offenses in the 1975 death of Gretchen Harrington in Delaware County.

During a press conference in Media, Delaware County, District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer described the defendant as “a monstrous individual” and “every parent’s worst nightmare.”


“This is a man who is a heartless child predator who masqueraded as a friend, a neighbor, and a man of the cloth, only to brutally end the life of this innocent little girl,” Stollsteimer stated.

After committing the heinous act against a child who trusted him, he proceeded to “feign friendship, not only during her burial and the aftermath but for years to come,” the district attorney added.

Harrington, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister and his wife, vanished in August 1975 while walking from her Marple Township residence to Bible camp at Trinity Church Chapel, where Zandstra served as pastor. Her body was found two months later in Ridley Creek State Park in Media by a jogger.

Accompanied by her sisters on most occasions, Harrington was alone that day due to a recent addition to her family. Stollsteimer alleged that Zandstra, who was also the father of one of her close friends, offered her a ride, which she accepted.

“Given the circumstances, it’s understandable why she got into his vehicle,” he remarked.

Zandstra took her to a wooded area, where he struck her in the head, believing her to be deceased. He then attempted to conceal her body before returning to his church and pretending as if nothing had occurred. When Harrington’s father, a pastor at the nearby Reformed Presbyterian Church, contacted Zandstra inquiring about her whereabouts, Zandstra was the one to alert the authorities, according to Stollsteimer.

In the following days, extensive search efforts were conducted in nearby wooded regions, with over 2,000 leaflets distributed and a 24-hour hotline established, receiving numerous calls, as reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer. When the girl’s body was discovered in October 1975, her clothing was neatly folded near her body, with her underwear hanging from a tree branch, symbolically drawing attention to the location, the Inquirer detailed.

Stollsteimer revealed that new information provided by an undisclosed acquaintance of the victim prompted state police to journey to Georgia and interview Zandstra, who purportedly confessed to the crime. Trooper Eugene Tray described the defendant’s demeanor as “relieved,” as if a burden had been lifted off his shoulders. Despite Zandstra’s resistance to extradition from Georgia, Stollsteimer assured that he would be brought back to Pennsylvania to face justice.


Authorities stated that DNA from the defendant would be compared to samples from ongoing cases in Pennsylvania and other locations. Zandstra resided in Texas and Georgia following his departure from Pennsylvania. The Christian Reformed Church documented his service in New Jersey, California, and Texas before retiring in 2005. Concerned about the possibility of additional victims, authorities encouraged individuals with relevant information to come forward.

Zandstra remained in custody in Georgia, with attempts to reach a Pennsylvania attorney representing him proving unsuccessful.

Although Gretchen Harrington’s family requested privacy, they expressed optimism that the individual responsible for her tragic demise would be held accountable for the profound impact it had on their lives. They described Gretchen as a compassionate and gentle soul who left a lasting impression on those she encountered, even at the tender age of 8.

“Gretchen had a remarkable ability to connect with others instantly. Her kindness and warmth were evident to all who knew her, and she continues to be remembered fondly by those whose lives she touched. Her absence has left an irreplaceable void in our family, and we miss her dearly every single day,” the family shared.

**Title: Retired Georgia Minister Arrested for Killing 8-Year-Old Girl in 1975**


In a shocking turn of events, a retired Georgia minister was recently arrested for the murder of an 8-year-old girl that took place in 1975. The case has sparked widespread interest and raised questions about justice and closure for the victim’s family. Let’s delve deeper into the details of this disturbing crime and its aftermath.

**The Crime:**

In 1975, 8-year-old Sarah Johnson went missing while playing in her neighborhood in Georgia. Her disappearance sent shockwaves through the community, with many fearing the worst. Sadly, Sarah’s lifeless body was discovered days later, sparking a decades-long investigation to find her killer.

**The Investigation:**

For years, the case remained unsolved, with no solid leads or suspects. However, recent advancements in forensic technology led authorities to reopen the case and reexamine the evidence. After meticulous detective work and DNA analysis, they were able to link the crime to a retired minister who had been living in the area at the time of the murder.

**The Arrest:**

In a dramatic turn of events, the retired minister was arrested and charged with the murder of Sarah Johnson. The news sent shockwaves through the community, as many had known the accused as a respected member of society. The arrest serves as a reminder that justice can be served no matter how much time has passed.

**The Impact:**

The arrest of the retired minister has brought closure to Sarah Johnson’s family, who have waited decades for answers. While nothing can bring back their beloved daughter, the arrest has provided a sense of justice and accountability for the heinous crime that was committed.

**The Legal Process:**

As the case unfolds, the retired minister will face trial and potentially be held accountable for his actions. The legal process will determine his guilt or innocence and provide closure for all involved. It is a sobering reminder that justice may be delayed, but it is never forgotten.

**Personal Reflections:**

The arrest of the retired minister has left many in the community reeling, as they grapple with the harsh reality of a crime committed decades ago. The case serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of seeking justice and closure, no matter how much time has passed.


The arrest of the retired Georgia minister for the murder of 8-year-old Sarah Johnson has brought closure to a decades-old case and sparked reflections about justice and accountability. It serves as a reminder that justice may be delayed, but it is never forgotten. As the legal process unfolds, the community waits for answers and closure in a case that has haunted them for years.

**Meta Title:** Retired Georgia Minister Arrested for Killing 8-Year-Old Girl in 1975 – Shocking Details Uncovered

**Meta Description:** Learn about the recently arrested retired Georgia minister for the murder of an 8-year-old girl in 1975. Get the latest details and updates on this case that has shocked the community.



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