Former Pastor Admitted To Abducting, Killing 8-Year-Old Girl In 1975

Authorities finally solved a decades-old cold-case murder from 1975 when a former pastor admitted to killing the 8-year-old victim. 

David Zandstra, 83, admitted to abducting and killing 8-year-old Gretchen Harrington on Aug. 15, 1975. 

According to the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, the young girl was heading to her bible camp when Zandstra pulled up alongside the 8-year-old and offered a ride.

Instead of driving to her destination, Zandstra took Gretchen to a secluded area where he asked her to undress. Zandstra beat the little girl to death when she refused to remove her clothes. 

Zandstra, a pastor at the time, told investigators that he drove back to church after killing the 8-year-old. Gretchen’s remains were discovered weeks later in Ridley Creek State Park.

Investigators closed in on Zandstra after interviewing a woman who claimed to be best friends with Zandstra’s daughter. During the interview, which occurred this January, the woman told investigators that the former pastor groped her during a sleepover at his home when she was ten years old.

When authorities confronted Zandstra about the woman’s allegations, he admitted to abducting and killing Gretchen. 

Delco District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer told a press conference on Monday that “Zandstra is a monster” and every parent’s worst nightmare. 

“He killed this poor 8-year-old girl he knew and who trusted him. And then he acted as if he was a family friend, not only during her burial and the period after that, but for years.”

Gretchen’s family released a statement saying they were hopeful that the person responsible for their daughter’s death will be held accountable.

“It’s difficult to express the emotions that we are feeling as we take one step closer to justice,” the statement read. “Gretchen was only 8 years old when she was suddenly taken away from us on her way to church on Friday, August 15, 1975. If you met Gretchen, you were instantly her friend. She exuded kindness to all and was sweet and gentle.”

Zandstra has been charged with criminal homicide, murder in the first, second and third degree, kidnapping of a minor and possessing an instrument of crime.