(NationalUSNews.com) — Police arrested an 83-year-old former pastor in Atlanta, Georgia, for murdering a 9-year-old girl in Pennsylvania almost 50 years ago. Gretchen Harrington disappeared while walking to bible camp in the summer of 1975, and her body was discovered two months later in Ridley Creek State Park, Pennsylvania.
The bible camp was located at Trinity Church Chapel, where David Zandstra was a pastor. Police interviewed Mr. Zandstra when the child disappeared, and found him suspicious, but did not have enough evidence to arrest him. He aroused the interest of law enforcement because he appeared to know what Gretchen was wearing on the day, despite claiming she never arrived at the camp.
The case returned to police attention when a woman found diaries she kept at the time. She was friends with Zandstra’s daughter in 1975 and recorded in her diary that he had touched her inappropriately during a sleepover at her friend’s house. She also wrote that she believed he was responsible for Gretchen’s disappearance.
After receiving this information, police visited the former pastor at his home in Georgia, where he initially denied any knowledge of the incident. However, he later changed his mind and admitted responsibility. He said he met Gretchen when she was walking to his church and offered her a ride in his car. He took to a nearby wooded area and ordered her to remove her clothes. When she refused, he hit her in the head, threw her out of the car, and left her.
Police now believe Zandstra may have had other victims. Since Gretchen’s murder, he has worked in Texas, California, New Jersey, and Georgia and police are appealing for anyone who he may have assaulted in those states to come forward. District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said, “This is a man who is a remorseless child predator who acted as if he was a friend, a neighbor, and a man of God. But he killed this little girl.”
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