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The Mysterious Cold Case Of Jeannette DePalma

Jeannette DePalma was a sixteen-year-old girl from Springfield, Union County, New Jersey. She was a student at Jonathan Dayton High School. On August 7, 1972, she said to her mum she was scheming to take the train to a friend’s home. But she never reached there. When she failed to come back home later that evening. Her parents filed a missing person’s report with the Springfield Police Department.

Body Of Jeannette

Death of Jeannette DePalma - Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Six weeks later, a dog brought its owner a horrible discovery: a decomposing human forearm and hand. This directed to the finding of her remains high on a mountain in Houdaille Quarry on September 19. There were no indications of trauma to her fully clothed skeletal remains. And the coroner, Dr Bernard Ehrenberg, ruled her reason of death as ‘unknown’ but indicated strangulation as a likelihood. Her corpse was encircled by objects that several residents believe are indicative of occult involvement. Accounts vary; some people explain she was discovered with a halo of stones around her head.

An unknown person wrote into Weird NJ magazine contending that there were arrows carved into trees leading to her corpse. And that she was encircled by dead animals. The most common and commonly agreed-upon account states that she was surrounded by fallen logs roughly in the shape of a coffin, with various crosses inside of it. There are some people regional to the area who contended that a cult of witches operates in the close Watchung Reservation. As an outcome of these rumours, many regional newspapers were reporting that she may have been a casualty of occult sacrifice within two weeks of the finding of her remains. The concept of occult involvement was also stimulated by DePalmas’ Pastor, James Tate of the Assemblies of God Evangel Church. This makes the killing of Jeannette DePalma an early instance of a case tarnished by what was later termed “Satanic Panic.”

Jeannette Murder Case Went Cold

The Springfield Police Department followed up on advice regarding a regional homeless man. Known only as ‘Red,’ who fled his campsite in the forests near where her corpse was discovered. Soon after she went missing. The Union County Prosecutor’s Office eventually ruled that ‘Red’ had nothing to do with Jeannette DePalma’s killing. The case rapidly went cold.

Others local to the region suspect possible police involvement and corruption played a part in her killing, with some pointing to wrong rumours that her case was closed within a week of the finding of her corpse, and others have accused her church of having something to do with it, with her priest’s promotion of the sacrifice concept being a distraction. The police documents associating with her case were allegedly eradicated by flooding during Hurricane Floyd in 1999 but could have gone missing as far back as the 1980s. The Union County Prosecutor’s Office has conserved their copies of the files.

Unsolved

What occurred to Jeannette DePalma, and who killed her? I take the occult thing with a grain of salt, as I don’t believe in anything that has to do with the satanic panic. Weird NJ also publishes a lot of regional rumours, but they thoroughly research the letters they receive (their inquiry into the DePalma case was the outcome of a letter about a ‘rumour’ of the dog bringing home the forearm by a Billy Martin). Was she choked? Were the items encircling her corpse orchestrated or was nothing altered (aside from maybe the stick crosses)?

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