The Murder of Jeannette DePalma

            On August 7, 1972, Jeanette DePalma, who had turned 16 just days prior, was reported missing by her parents (Muscavage 2019). DePalma reportedly told her mother she was going to a friend’s house, but she never arrived (Lamare 2019). Six weeks later a dog brought a decomposing arm to an apartment complex on Wilson Road in Springfield, NJ. The arm would be linked to DePalma, and her remains were recovered on top of a rock formation in the Houdaille Quarry (Muscavage 2019). The rock formation she was found on was notably known as Devil’s Teeth (Lamare 2019).

            In the 1970s, the Jesus Movement was spreading across the country. Known also as Jesus Freaks, those in the Jesus Movement were evangelists urging people to follow Jesus and forsake what was essentially the elements of the Summer of Love (Eskridge 2019). DePalma was known to have been a devout Christian. With the lack of answer for her murder, theories began to quickly emerge that she was sacrificed in an occult ritual (Muscavage 2019). There have been reports that DePalma was found on what looked like a makeshift altar, surrounded by various occult symbols. Theories abound that there was a Satanic cult worshipping in the area at the time (Lamare 2019), which shouldn’t surprise as the Satanic Panic came about just a decade later. Another rumor that began to spread was that a cult known as The Witches was responsible. Kids were hearing stories just a couple years before DePalma was found that the cult was planning on killing a child on and by Halloween that year. The rumors differed on how the cult planned on killing a child – usually either ritual sacrifice or by poisoning (Lamare 2019).

            No official cause of death was ever determined for DePalma. By the time her remains were found, she had already decomposed a significant amount (Njspotlight 2015). Her clothes were examined by the FBI in 1973 and found that there were no foreign hairs in her clothing. It was noted that there were stains blouse, underwear, bra, and pants that could not be positively identified, though some think they could be blood or semen (Deak 2019).

 The case is filled with contradictions as well, even down to the officers who were at the scene not agreeing on what they saw there. While the rumors persist that there were signs of occult activity at the scene, only one of the responding officers said he saw those things. The other officer says the opposite – there was nothing occult at the scene at all. Another conflicting account was on the evidence. While the writers of the Weird United States series were initially told that they couldn’t see the case files of an active case. Another clerk told them that the files had gone missing after a flood from Hurricane Floyd in 1995. An investigator with the homicide unit, however, says the files were missing already when he was assigned to the unit in 1984. This has lead to some people believing that there is some kind of cover up occurring on this case (Njspotlight 2015).

            In 2019, the Union County Prosecutor’s office was sued by Ed Salzano in an effort to have the clothing DePalma was wearing at the time of her death tested for DNA. The lawsuit was lost however, as Salzano has no connection to the DePalma’s or the case outside of his own interest in the case. Salzano claims to have filed the lawsuit to open the case back up, not necessarily to actually get the investigation to test for DNA. According to him, there are people who were around when the death occurred that knew what had actually happened to DePalma, but are too scared to come forward (Deak 2019).

            It’s possible that we may never get answers as to what really happened to Jeannette DePalma. Could it have been a ritual sacrifice by Satanist? Anyone who knows the first thing about actual Satanism will tell you that’s not the case. Actual Satanists don’t actually have the crazy rituals mainstream media likes to act like they do. The same can be said for witchcraft practitioners. However, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that someone would want people to belief these things, or that someone thought they were practicing these things at the time of DePalma’s death. What matters is that a young girl died unexpectedly and with no explanation nearly fifty years later.

Muscavage, N. (2019, August 26). What happened to Springfield teen found dead near Watchung Reservation in 1972? Retrieved September 12, 2020, from https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/crime/jersey-mayhem/cold-cases/2019/08/23/nj-cold-case-jeannette-depalma-springfield-1972-watchung-reservation/1889140001/

Eskridge, L. (2019, October 31). ‘Jesus People’ – a movement born from the ‘Summer of Love’. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://theconversation.com/jesus-people-a-movement-born-from-the-summer-of-love-82421

Lamare, A. (2019, May 06). Who Killed Jeannette DePalma? New Details On The 1972 Unsolved Murder And The Satanic Rituals Surrounding Her Death. Retrieved September 19, 2020, from https://www.yourtango.com/2019324197/who-killed-jeanette-depalma-1972-unsolved-murder-satanic-rituals-surrounding-her-death

‘Death on the Devil’s Teeth’: Unsolved 1972 Murder of Teenage Girl: Video. (2015, July 20). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://www.njspotlight.com/news/video/death-on-the-devils-teeth-unsolved-1972-murder-of-teenage-girl/

Deak, M. (2019, September 11). NJ unsolved murder: Judge denies DNA test on Jeannette DePalma’s clothes. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/local/courts/2019/09/09/nj-unsolved-murder-judge-denies-dna-test-jeannette-depalmas-clothes/2265134001/

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