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Former pastor arrested in 1975 murder case investigating death of young girl

A former pastor was arrested after he confessed to the kidnapping and murdering of an 8-year-old girl who attended a Bible camp hosted by the man’s church in Pennsylvania nearly 50 years ago, officials said Monday.

David Zandstra, 83, of Marietta, Georgia has been charged with criminal homicide, murder of the first, second and third degree, kidnapping of a minor and the possession of an instrument of crime.

The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office said the man admitted to his crimes after presented with allegations made in a January interview that the man groped a different young girl and may have attempted to kidnap another.

Gretchen Harrington, 8, disappeared the morning of August 15, 1975, in Marple, Pennsylvania, after she left for Bible camp, according to the statement.

The Trinity Church Chapel Christian Reform Church, where Zandstra was a pastor, was one of the host churches of the camp where the children began the day with opening exercises.

Zandstra was among the individuals responsible for transporting the children from Trinity to The Reformed Presbyterian Church, another host church of the camp where Harrington’s father was a pastor.

After Harrington did not appear at The Reformed Presbyterian Church that day, her father became concerned, and Zandstra reported the victim’s disappearance to the Marple Police Department.

Skeletal remains that were later identified as Harrington’s were found located within Ridley Creek State Park on October 14, 1975.

“The murder of Gretchen Harrington has haunted members of law enforcement since that terrible day in August 1975. The families of victims often say that their lives are forever altered into the ‘before’ time and the ‘after’ time. Gretchen’s murder created a ‘before’ time and an ‘after’ time for an entire community – and for an entire county,” District Attorney Stollsteimer said in the announcement.

An arrest warrant and criminal complaint were filed against Zandstra on July 17 following the emergence of the new evidence, and Zandstra is now in jail in Cobb County, Georgia, according to the District Attorney’s Office statement.

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