ON SEPTEMBER 19, 1972, A DOG RETURNED TO IT'S OWNER WITH A VERY STRANGE OBJECT: A BADLY DECOMPOSED HUMAN FOREARM! The dog's owner told the police that his dog frequently roamed around a nearby quarry. Upon searching the wooded area up by a cliff in this quarry, the police found the decomposed body of an unknown female. Dental records would reveal that the body was that of 16 year old Jeanette DePalma.
Jeanette had disappeared from her Springfield, NJ home the previous August on her way to work in Springfield. Police conducted a search of several nearby towns with the help of the state police but no trace of the girl could be found. Until this grisly discovery. Due to the extremely poor condition of the corpse, no cause of death could be determined and, supposedly, the police took NO PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE CRIME SCENE! This would be the first of many odd aspects of the case. Jeanette was found fully clothed and lying face down surrounded by logs which seemed to have been placed deliberately. She was found on a rocky cliff area of the Houdaille Quarry on the Shunpike Ridge which was known locally as "The Dragon's Teeth" because the rocks jutting from the ground resembled the teeth of a skull. A local groundskeeper named Red Kierra was questioned but no evidence linked him to the crime so he was cleared of suspicion. Rumours quickly began circulating about local cult activity which had been going on recently. Jeanette had kicked a drug habit and became quite religious; she worked with Rev. James Tate of the First Assemblies of God Church in Elizabeth, NJ to help other teenagers with alcohol and drug problems. Locals and police both soon surmised that Jeanette's evangelical Christianity may have made her a target of a local occult group of possible Satanists and she may have been sacrificed in some sort of cult ritual. The placement of the logs around Jeanette's body as well as alleged "occult symbols", wooden crosses made of sticks and a small stone altar found nearby soon reinforced the Satanic cult theory which was rampant in the 1970s. With no clues or concrete evidence, the case soon went cold.
Although, after four decades locals still are reluctant (and a little fearful) to talk about the case, there has also arisen a whispered suspicion that perhaps the police had known more about the murder than they revealed owing to some important person's involvement. No evidence exists for this theory but you know how people talk. The odd assertion that no photographs were taken of the crime scene is bad enough but then all the files relating to the case were destroyed in the early 1990s when Hurricane Floyd hit New Jersey. Locals question why the evidence had been stored in the basement of a frequently flooded building. Nowadays, we only have some newspaper reports which appeared in the New Jersey Star Ledger as well as some investigative articles which appeared in WEIRD NJ magazine to go by; there is precious little other information out there. Another theory which has been bandied about is that perhaps Jeanette had become pregnant and, while meeting the boy out in the secluded quarry in order to discuss what was to be done, he had murdered her. Of course, there isn't a shred of evidence supporting this supposition.
Was Jeanette DePalma murdered by the homeless Red Kierra who, after being released and cleared, soon left the area and disappeared into the mists of history? Did some well-placed political or social V.I.P. kill her who had the power and influence to cover up the crime with the possible collusion of the local police force? Did the rumoured local occult activity of some satanic cult really indicate that Jeanette had been ritually sacrificed by some devil-worshippers? After all these years, we still don't know.