The Unsolved Case of Jeannette DePalma

Witchcraft and Satanists Implicated in 1972 Mystery

In issue #22 of Weird NJ magazine we examined an all-but-forgotten unsolved murder case from 1972 in which the body of a teenage girl was discovered atop a cliff, high above an abandoned quarry in the town of Springfield (Union County). Admittedly, at the time we didn’t know many details about the case, other than the fact that the corpse was found thanks to a dog that had brought home a badly decomposed human forearm to its master. The arm, and the corpse, would later be identified as having belonged to Jeannette DePalma, a local teenager who had been missing for six weeks.

The details that had first drawn us to the sad story of Jeannette were the lingering rumors around the towns of Union County that the disappearance and subsequent murder had ritualistic overtones. The remote hilltop location where the body was discovered was said to have been strewn with cult related symbols and the body of the young girl was rumored to have been placed on a makeshift altar in the woods.

The various versions of the Jeannette DePalma story that we had heard either blamed a coven of witches or a local group of Satanists for her death. The strange thing that we discovered in our investigation of the case was that after thirty years most people who remembered the crime were still too frightened to speak with us about it. Everyone we questioned about the murder seemed to recall the same scant and gruesome details, but nobody wanted to go on record or have their name published in our article––including the Springfield Police Department!

The general consensus of the people we questioned in regard to Jeannette’s murder seemed unanimous in agreement on certain points: that it was in some way cult related, that there was a police cover-up of the facts in the case, and that Jeannette’s killers were still most likely at large.

But could the death of Jeannette DePalma really be attributed to some evil force operating the quiet neighborhoods of suburban Union County in the early 1970’s, or had time and the rumor mill merely distorted the facts of the case and sensationalized the crime? This is that question that we pondered, yet could not answer in our original article. After the publication of that article we would receive several new leads in the case. Some were vague or contradictory, some were cryptic, and others were downright creepy. Some of the tips were cautionary, while others seemed to have a sinister undercurrent. Most of the leads came to us in the mail in plain white envelopes without any return address. Some of the letters were typed, others were handwritten––all were anonymous. They came to us from all over the state, judging by the postmarks. Some were from people who still lived in the area where the murder occurred, while others came from people who had moved away years ago but still remembered the case with horror. Continue reading…

Location where Jeannette DePalma’s body was found as it looks today. (Photo by Mark Moran)

Not an Altar, but Logs Around Her Body

This is in regards to the story of Jeannette DePalma. When her body was found, it was not on an altar. There were logs around her body. She needs to be put at rest finally. I am sure something out there or someone must be able to give you some more about the case. Maybe she did herself in, because at that time there was a lot of Satan stuff going on in the Reservation. Sorry I can’t give you my name, for more reasons than one. –Anonymous

“The Witches” Planned the Killing

I was a young teenager when the discovery of Jeannette DePalma happened, and lived in the next town. About two years prior, there was much talk in my school about a cult in the surrounding area. They were known as The Witches. They must have let it be known in the area that they planned to kill a child on or about Halloween, either by kidnapping and sacrificing them or by poison. I remember being anxious about this because I went trick-or-treating in those days. I didn’t read the newspapers, but I was well aware of the dog that brought home the girl’s arm. The story was well known, as I lived within three miles of the quarry. –Anonymous

Arrows Point the Way

Apparently my Mom knew Jeannette, because Jeannette worked at a clothing store in Summit named Sealfons. They were about the same age, which should have been around 13 or 14. My mother and some of her friends used to hang out and camp in the Quarry. That is, until they found out about the murder.

My uncle, who was a Summit cop, came to warn my mother against going there any longer. From what I was told these details were never released to the public. When the dog brought the arm home and the search for the body started, they found arrows carved in the trees that would led you to the body. The location was high up on a cliff. All around her body were dead animals tied to trees with string and some in jars. Shortly thereafter there were reports of animals being mutilated and hung in the same fashion in the Watchung Reservation, which is also very close to the scene of the crime. The Watchung Reservation or the “Res” has been reported to be the center of devil worship activity for years. –Anonymous

I Saw the Sacrifices

I, too, forgot about the death of Jeannette DePalma. But I can never forget all the weird stuff that happened in Summit, Mountainside, Springfield, and for me, the majority of it in the Watchung Reservation.

Now that I think back on it, It would make sense that Springfield would cover up the murder so as to not tarnish the reputation of the town. I know that the sacrifice that my friends saw was never reported or was in the newspaper. But I remember, and I sure as hell know they do too! –Anonymous

Jeannette at Union County Catholic – Photo Courtesy of Kristine Mintel

Just Can’t Forget Jeannette

I knew Jeannette Depalma very well and my friend went out with her. We used to go to church with her. She was a religious girl, but I think her parents forced her go to church.  She was kind of, a little bit of a wild girl. We all went up to the house and helped look for her and spoke with her parents.  I don’t think my friend, who was quite in love with her, ever recovered from it.

I was very surprised that they (the police) don’t have anything in the archives about her. It’s funny, my wife read the story and she says “Don’t even get involved. It’s a satanic thing.”

It was all the talk of Union County for two weeks, then boom––it was gone. It left the papers very quickly. That is very spooky in itself. In the past thirty years I think I’ve only thought about that girl twice. And I felt a little ashamed of myself. And then I read the Weird NJ article, and I said “Holy cow, everyone forgot about Jeannette DePalma!” That poor girl.  –Rich

The preceeding story is just a brief excerpt from our full article on the Jeannette DePalma case. For all the known details of the investigation please refer to issue #22 of Weird NJ Magazine.