August 7, 1972
Springfield Township, New Jersey
Jeannette DePalma (16) goes missing; her body is found a month later
DePalma left her home, telling her mother she was going to visit a friend. When she did not arrive at the friend’s house or back home, a missing person report was filed. On September 19, a dog brought its owner part of a decomposing human arm, leading to the discovery of the rest of DePalma’s body.
According to newspapers, DePalma’s body was contained “within in a trapezoidal perimeter of broken branches and logs.” The shape was also likened to a coffin by several sources. One of those who found DePalma’s body also noted two sticks crossed on the ground above her head. Because of the amount of decomposition, authorities were unable to conclusively determine DePalma’s cause of death. Due to the lack of evidence of damage to her bones and clothing, stabbing, shooting, and bludgeoning were ruled out. The coroner’s best guess was that DePalma had been strangled.
The darker nature of DePalma’s murder, including the apparently ritualistic posturing of her body, immediately captured the media’s attention, who focused on the idea of a human sacrifice. According to reports, a witch (most likely a Wiccan) was brought in to assist police with the occult aspects of the murder, which upset the victim’s parents. Mrs. DePalma was quoted as saying “We were afraid the witch would try to bring Jeanette back from the dead.” Newspapers also interviewed local Satanists, including Lillith Sinclair, who stated that while some Satanists may “believe in sacrifices just as in other religions you have people who kill in the name of God,” such worshippers are in the minority.
With few leads to go on, the case went cold. However, decades later, a semi-annual publication called Weird NJ, dedicated to strange occurrences in New Jersey, began receiving information on DePalma’s case. It is largely due to Weird NJ’s investigation and reporting on the case that brought it back to the public’s attention. In 2015, authors Jesse P. Pollack and Mark Moran released a book called Death on the Devil’s Teeth, which holds what they had found during nearly 20 years of research.
DePalma’s case officially remains unsolved.