Weird NJ

Death on the Devil’s Teeth: The Strange Murder That Shocked Suburban New Jersey

Paperback Book, 224 illustrated pages. $19.95 (plus $3.29 shipping). 

It was a case that shook a small New Jersey community to its core.

On August 7th, 1972, sixteen-year-old Jeannette DePalma walked out of her suburban Springfield home, and into the realm of urban legend. She had planned to hitchhike to a friend’s house before an afternoon shift at work. She would never make it.

Six weeks after seeming to have vanished into thin air, the body of Jeannette DePalma was found after a local dog brought the teenager’s decomposed arm back to its owner. A search party discovered the rest of her remains high atop a cliff inside an abandoned quarry. For decades, this jagged outcropping of rock had been known to locals as the Devil’s Teeth.

The girl’s body was so badly decomposed that a cause of death could not be determined. According to the first-responders who climbed the Devil’s Teeth, Jeannette was found surrounded by occult objects, suggesting that some kind of ritual sacrifice had taken place.

Rumors of witchcraft and Satanism were splashed across the headlines of every local paper in the county. The terrified citizens of Springfield began to demand answers. How could something like this happen in such a nice, middle-class community? The DePalma family suggested to reporters that Jeannette could have been targeted by Satanists or modern-day witches due to her activity within their church.

 While the police and the public were being distracted by these bizarre rumors, connections to other strange events occurring in the area were being overlooked – including the deaths of several other young women close by. As time went on, the DePalma case vanished from the headlines, and the residents of Springfield seemed more than happy to forget the event, despite the fact that no arrests were ever made.

For decades, Jeannette seemed destined to become nothing more than a vague memory – her death being the stuff of campfire tales. Then, in the late 1990s, anonymous letters began to flood the office of a local independent magazine called Weird New Jersey. As Weird NJ’s Mark Moran and Jesse Pollack tried to research this almost mythic cold case, they encountered numerous roadblocks, such as the Springfield police claiming to have lost Jeannette’s case file in a flood, and the hesitancy of the slain teenager’s acquaintances to go on the record to tell what they knew. Undeterred, Pollack and Moran continued to dig deeper into this mysterious and baffling case, and shocking discoveries would be made. Now – four decades after the murder of Jeannette DePalma – the truth can finally be told.

For more information please visit www.JeannetteDePalma.com.

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