A former pastor was arrested for the decades-old cold case murder of an 8-year-old girl in Pennsylvania after he admitted to abducting and killing the young girl while she was on her way to Bible camp, police officials in Delaware, US said.
David Zandstra, 83, pulled up alongside Gretchen Harrington in his green station wagon on August 15, 1975, and offered her a ride, according to the Delaware County District Attorney’s office.
The pastor told investigators that he then took the girl to a secluded spot where he told her to take off her clothes, and then beat her to death when she refused.
The pastor, who was known to the family, said he drove back to church after the killing.
“David Zandstra is a monster. He is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Delco District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said during a press conference Monday, July 24 according to NBCPhiladelphia.
“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 skeletal remains were discovered weeks later in Ridley Creek State Park, more than seven miles from her home.
Investigators interviewed a woman in January who claimed to be best friends with Zandstra’s daughter. She alleged that Zandstra groped her during a sleepover at his home when she was 10 years old.
After detectives confronted the pastor with the sexual assault allegations, he admitted to abducting and killing Gretchen.
Zandstra, who now lives in Georgia, has been charged with criminal homicide, murder of the first, second, and third degree, as well as kidnapping of a minor and the possession of an instrument of crime.
“It’s difficult to express the emotions that we are feeling as we take one step closer to justice,” the statement from the girl’s family 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.”