Found Deceased NJ - Jeannette DePalma, 16, Springfield, 7 Aug 1972

Discussion in 'Cold Cases' started by Pettibon Junction, Feb 27, 2015.

  1. Pettibon Junction

    Pettibon Junction Active Member

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    Surprised to see that there is no existing thread for the unsolved murder of Jeannette DePalma.

    The crime was discovered on September 19, 1972 when a local man's dog returned from home with a severed human forearm in its jaws. A search of the woods surrounding an the nearby Houdaille rock quarry revealed the badly decomposed body of Jeanette DePalma, 16, who'd gone missing the month before. A person of interest was soon developed but the man skipped town after questioning and the case quickly went cold.

    The story passed into local folklore when the rumors began to fly that the murder of Jeanette, a deeply religious young woman and recovering drug addict involved in an evangelical outreach program that ministered to adolescent substance abusers, was, in fact, a ritualistic killing. There were rumors of occult artifacts being found at the crime scene and it was reported that her body was found posed with wooden crosses and occult symbols fashioned out of logs/branches surrounding it. Stories about cult involvement and a possible coverrup by police (who, it was alleged, did not properly preserve or take photographs of the crime scene) abounded.

    Of course, all this talk could be nothing but the work of a small-town rumor mill ginning up tall tales while local authorities remained tight-lipped so as not to compromise an ongoing investigation. (It is perhaps telling that all the satanism/witchcraft stuff comes up readily online while the actual forensic evidence is nowhere to be found.) For all we know, this could have been like so many other dreary crimes that happened in such communities back then, where the cops figured out pretty quickly who did it but, in the absence of reliable forensics, simply couldn't build a solid case against their suspect.

    Whichever holds true, this case is worth looking into with fresh eyes.
    Sources are below:

    http://weirdnj.com/stories/mystery-history/jeannette-depalma/

    http://landofcerptsandhoney.blogspot.com/2014/10/what-happened-to-jeanette-depalma.html
     
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  2. Pettibon Junction

    Pettibon Junction Active Member

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    Putting the cult angle aside for a moment, there are several avenues of investigation and a number of possible persons of interest that need to be cleared.

    First, and most obviously: the man whose dog found the body. We don't know for sure, but the news clippings included at the links above imply that the quarry where Jeanette was found is some distance from the man's home. Perhaps the dog found the remains of its own accord. However, it's possible that it knew the area because it had been there before. This man needed to be questioned and ruled out and I sure hope he was.

    Secondly, Jeanette's outreach work and history of drug abuse should have been thoroughly explored. Who was she using with before her religious awakening? Did any of these people harbor any resentments toward her or perhaps take offense to her entreats, construing her as preachy or holier-than-though? Did she meet someone unstable through this work, someone who might have developed enough of an obsession to kill her?

    Jeanette's ministry was performed under the tutelage of a reverend in Elizabeth, NJ. He should have been pressed about his relationship with the victim. It's hard to ascertain whether this was done.

    Finally, the police suspect. His name is listed and his behavior (leaving town after being questioned) is, on its surface, highly suspicious. However, he was supposedly homeless and as such, a member of a traditionally transitory population. But the police must have had other reasons for suspecting him and these need to be explored.
     
  3. Sulamith

    Sulamith Well-Known Member

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    I could swear that there was a thread for Jeannette and I bookmarked it as I found the case fascinating. Then one day the thread was gone. After I read about it here I Googled and found the article on the Weird NJ site.

    It does not appear that the investigation was very thorough. Maybe LE did not tell all to the papers. Too much focus on the Satanic Panic angle. I have the same questions that you have.

    Thanks for starting the thread!
     
  4. Pettibon Junction

    Pettibon Junction Active Member

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    Even without the satanic panic angle, this is case is frustrating, as the original case files were apparently destroyed in a flood before they could be digitized.
     
  5. JusticeWillBeServed

    JusticeWillBeServed Well-Known Member

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    There's a book out now about this case, called Death on the Devil's Teeth .

    Here's the preview for the book

    ‘Death on the Devil’s Teeth': Unsolved 1972 Murder of Teenage Girl

     
  6. wfgodot

    wfgodot Former Member

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  7. Pettibon Junction

    Pettibon Junction Active Member

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  8. Pettibon Junction

    Pettibon Junction Active Member

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    Just finished Death on the Devil's Teeth. It clears up a lot of misconceptions and rumors about Jeannette's murder.

    First, the occult/ritual sacrifice angle appears to be hogwash, with investigators disagreeing about the presence of any kind of religious iconography at the scene. (The source of the cross rumors was, allegedly, a pair of dead trees that just happened to fall in such a shape.)

    Secondly, the reformed addict/counselor aspect has been further explored. Jeannette may have worked the phones at a church-run crisis center geared toward troubled teens, with drug use being a common issue. However, it seems she was likely conflated with her older sister who, at the time of Jeannette's disappearance, was undergoing treatment for addiction at a rehab center out west. In fact, all of the conflicting stories of Jeannette as hyper-religious outcast vs promiscuous druggie seem to be little more than that: stories attached after the fact to a normal, well-adjusted (if occasionally contradictory) teenage girl.

    Third, tales of Jeannette's religious awakening, as it were, were likely due to her parents' involvement in a church in Elizabeth associated with the burgeoning "Jesus Movement" (a liberal, back-to-basics form of Christianity popular among west coast hippies in the early 1970s.) This particular church reportedly attracted a number of young people.

    Finally, suspects. There were several:

    -Baltusrol Red: Drifter who caddied seasonally at the Baltusrol Golf Club. His camp in Houdaille Quarry was located roughly 50 yards from Jeannette's body was found. He was later tracked down and interviewed by police, who no longer consider him a suspect. Died in the late 1980s.

    -Tommy R: Night watchman at Houdaille Quarry. Late 20s/early 30s, supposedly mentally slow. Ruled out because the hilltop crime scene was too far outside the boundaries of his evening rounds (a dubious reason to dismiss a suspect IMO). Still living.

    -Mike A: Acquaintance/classmate who used to give Jeannette rides. Was said to have been obsessed with her, with an interest in the occult. (Mike was a self-proclaimed "warlock.") A vehicle matching the car he drove was allegedly seen in the area on the day Jeannette went missing and he reputedly sexually assaulted a number of local girls. Died in 2010.

    -Otto Nilson: South Orange accountant with a long history of mental instability and domestic violence. Arrested, tried, and acquitted in the murder of Joan Kramer, POI in the double-murder of Mary Prior and Lorraine Kelly. Later remanded to a state psychiatric hospital following an armed standoff at a VA hospital. I believe he's still alive too.

    All in all, the book's well worth reading and an invaluable primary source. The biggest thing it does is to lay bare that, for all the hype and small-town innuendo, the untimely death of Jeannette DePalma was likely the result of an opportunistic abduction, the kind of routine crime that happens far too often to young women in this world.
     
  9. Pettibon Junction

    Pettibon Junction Active Member

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    Otto Nilson died in 1992 at the state psychiatric hospital in Trenton.
     
  10. Ziba82

    Ziba82 New Member

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  11. Fede

    Fede Well-Known Member

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    Bumping. The case is still unsolved.
     
  12. jb9672

    jb9672 Member

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    thats kind of like what happen in tina Davidsons case as well. I dont know if well that was just away to get ppl to stop talking or what but by saying it was done by satanism/witchcraft? (I just dont know) I would think that if they still had some thing from the case or crime seen they could use that to test for some kind of dna to see who did that to her .
     
  13. imstilla.grandma

    imstilla.grandma Believer of Miracles

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    Her death occurred during the Jesus movement in the early 1970s and generated a multitude of newspaper articles speculating that she died as the result of an occult killing.

    With a lack of any concrete answers, theories have abounded for decades, ranging from a satanic ritual sacrifice to a coven of witches practicing black magic.

    The mystery is partially why Edward Salzano has taken a passionate interest in the case.

    Salzano is suing the Union County Prosecutor’s Office in hopes of compelling the agency to test Jeannette's clothing for DNA.

    In the lawsuit, filed on June 18, Salzano claimed he met with the Union County Prosecutor's Office in April to discuss Jeannette's case and deliver documents that he said Jeannette's nephew, John Bancey, a close friend, gave him before he died.

    "I asked if Jeannette's clothing would be DNA tested and I was told 'NO'," the lawsuit states.

    The lawsuit, filed in Union County Superior Court and assigned to Judge Karen Cassidy, is still active, but the prosecutor's office has filed a motion for dismissal, citing "lack of subject matter" and "failure to state a claim."

    In its brief, the Union County Prosecutor's Office said it appears Salzano is seeking to compel the law enforcement agency to "re-investigate the death of Jeannette DePalma, who died mysteriously 47 years ago."

    The motion for dismissal will be decided Aug. 30.

    The Union County Prosecutor's Office declined to comment for this story.
    What happened to Springfield teen found dead near Watchung Reservation in 1972?
     
  14. jb9672

    jb9672 Member

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    i really hope they will test her things so they can find out what or who did this to her we got well kind of the same thing going on here in my town with a cold case as well that happen back in 1973. my friends and I have a fb group and pod case about it as well as some of the other murders that happened around the 70's here in wi. that is almost like the one we are looking at but not are clod case is the one on tina Davidson they say that her murder was that of witchcraft but when you look more into it you start seeing different about it. to this day her killer or killers have not been found. also yet her's is not the only cold case that did happen here in wi that well they still don't have a killer for there's a lot of them and just hope someday they can put a face to a name of who did the killings not just for tina's family 's but for the other families as well.
     
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  15. jb9672

    jb9672 Member

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    also there is a blog story that is out here on line about tina Davidson that was put out from someone who had met her don't know if he had known her or not but well he is said to have been or is in to Wicca/witchcraft and in this blog he also talks of one of the girls that had been friends with tina as being much older than her and from somewhere's on the east cost up around mass or NJ. I can't recall where from off the top of my head but well with knowing that kind of wonder if that party(the girl that was from the east coast if well she is still living and if so just who was she? )
     
  16. imstilla.grandma

    imstilla.grandma Believer of Miracles

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    Ed Salzano, now 56, was only 10 when DePalma died. He remembers his parents keeping him home from trick-or-treating in his Maplewood neighborhood that fall.

    He filed a lawsuit in June, asking a Superior Court judge to compel the Union County Prosecutor’s Office to do DNA testing on the clothes in which DePalma was found.

    “It’s solvable. There are people out there who know what happened,” Salzano said last week.

    He filed the lawsuit as a last-ditch effort to get something going on the cold case, after he spent six years researching the case and became frustrated with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office. That research is a skill he honed working for a private investigation firm in New York, he said.

    Teen’s death in 1970s was blamed on satanists. There’s a fresh push to solve the case.
     
  17. dotr

    dotr Well-Known Member

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  18. dotr

    dotr Well-Known Member

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    Lengthy article.
    Feb 6 2021
    Cops linked 1972 death of teen girl to possible Satanic ritual. Newly revealed cold case photos show otherwise.
    [​IMG]
    Jeannette DePalma had just turned 16 when she went missing in Springfield Township and was found dead three months later in September of 1972.Courtesy Ed Salzano

    ''Jason Coy, a history professor at the College of Charleston who researches witchcraft and superstition, said he can’t find any sign of the occult or any other symbolism in the jumble of brush and branches. It suggests that investigators, looking for something sinister, saw patterns that weren’t there, or perhaps their initial descriptions of the branches near her body became exaggerated or misconstrued in the retellings of the scene.''
     
  19. CastlesBurning

    CastlesBurning Well-Known Member

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    BEWARE: These 50 Strangest Unsolved Mysteries of All Time Are Seriously Spooky!

    47. The Case of Jeanette DePalma

    In 1972 in Springfield, New Jersey, a dog brought a decomposing forearm to its owner. They quickly alerted police and this prompted a police search and a body was soon found afterward atop a cliff. The body was identified as Jeanette DePalmer, a 16-year-old who had gone missing for six weeks.

    Like rapid-fire, rumors about the cause of her death began to spread. The hill where she was discovered was covered with occult symbols and many were led to believe that her body was placed on a makeshift altar. Many locals, plus even some police members, pointed their fingers at a coven of witches, otherwise known as Satanists, who were rumored to have used DePalma for a human sacrifice.

    Because of a flood, many of the case’s details have been destroyed. However, some reports from local papers mention that police couldn’t determine the cause of death due to her badly decomposed body. Authorities investigated a local homeless man who was a prime suspect, only to find no connection with the killing. Many believed that DePalma may have provoked a group of Satan-worshipping teens at her high school since she was involved with a group that helped drug addicts find their faith in Christ. To this day, her death remains unsolved.
     
  20. JerseyGirl

    JerseyGirl Forum Coordinator Staff Member Forum Coordinators

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