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The Gretchen Harrington Murder Case: A 50-Year-Old Mystery Solved by a 10-Year-Old’s Diary

  On August 15, 1975, Malpoor Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, USA.
  Gretchen Harrington, 8, is heading out to Bible camp. As the daughter of a pastor, she has always been interested in studying the Bible. She was supposed to go with her sisters, but Mom had just had a baby and everyone was busy.
  This is the last day of the two-week summer camp, and Gretchen, who has never been absent, does not want to break the “perfect record”. The daily schedule of the summer camp is: the first hour is in Trinity Church, and then the children will be sent to another church to continue their lessons. Not far from Trinity Church, on top of a hill two blocks from home.
  Malpo Town is quiet and harmonious, and the neighbors are all acquaintances. Gretchen’s father said: “You can go by yourself today.” Unexpectedly, he made a fatal decision.
murdered girl

  At 9:20 on August 15th, Gretchen put on the shorts her mother made. Mom specially designed these shorts with hidden buttons that are not visible from the outside.
  Gretchen was walking alone on Lawrence Road. Just when she was more than 800 meters away from the church, a green station wagon stopped beside her. Witnesses said Gretchen got into the car after a few words with the owner.
  At 11:00 noon, several classmates who were in class together came to Gretchen’s house and told Gretchen’s father that Gretchen didn’t go to the summer camp today. Gretchen’s father felt that something was wrong, so he quickly called the pastor who presided over the summer camp. The pastor contacted other teachers and found out that Gretchen did not attend other classes.
  Gretchen’s father drove out looking for his daughter, but found nothing. At 11:29, the pastor called the police.
  Gretchen’s disappearance rocks the town. The town dispatched 200 police officers, firefighters, and volunteers to carry out a carpet search with dogs along both sides of the stream behind Gretchen’s house and nearby forests. Police helicopters hovered over the town, and more than 2,000 missing person notices were posted all over the streets and alleys. The town government opened a 24-hour tracing hotline and received hundreds of clues, but Gretchen was not found.
  On September 15, the school had started, but Gretchen was still missing. On that day, her friend, 10-year-old Xiao A, wrote this passage in her diary: “Do you know? Someone wanted to kidnap my classmate Holly, and tried twice! I can’t tell anyone this secret, but I think This is the same person who kidnapped Gretchen, I think this person is Mr. Z.” On
  October 14, Gretchen’s body was found in the dense forest of the state park: she was naked, her clothes were neatly folded, and her underwear was Hanging on the branch, “like a small flag, deliberately summoning the police to go.” The autopsy results showed that she was killed by a blunt instrument blow to the head, and her body was dumped in the dense forest after death.
  News of Gretchen’s murder sends panic through the town of Malpoor. Before that, no one would have expected such a horrible case to happen in the small town. Her family was even more grieved.
  Gretchen’s father asks the pastor who runs the summer camp to officiate at the funeral. In the following decades, he lived in regret, regretting countless times for letting his children go out alone. He didn’t open this knot until his death.
  Nearly half a century later, Gretchen’s loved ones said: “Gretchen’s death has completely changed our family. Every day since her death, we miss her.”

Mr Z

  After Gretchen was murdered, in 2022, two writers co-authored the documentary literature “The Tragedy of Gretchen Harrington of Malpoor”, revisiting the unsolved case half a century ago. This refocused public opinion on the small town of Ma’erpo, and media reporters also came here one after another.
  During the investigation, the reporters found that the Gretchen case has become a horrible memory of local children growing up. Some residents recalled: “After Gretchen was kidnapped and murdered, the lives of us, our friends, our parents and everyone in the community were changed. We were no longer allowed to walk to our friends’ houses by ourselves, or go to the swimming club. After the case happened, we became more vigilant towards strangers and more cautious when raising our own children.” Some residents said: “What puzzles us is that this case has not been detected nearly 50 years after it happened.
  ” The case has received public attention again, and the police have used new criminal investigation methods to restart the investigation. However, neither the media, writers nor the police were aware of the existence of the important witness Xiao A, although Xiao A never left Malpo Town.
  Little A, who was 10 years old at the time, is now Ms. A who is nearly 60 years old. She finally plucked up the courage to tell the secret she had kept for half a century, and handed over the diary to the police. She recalled to the police: Back then, she was good friends with Mr. Z’s daughter, and often lived in Mr. Z’s house, sleeping in the same room with Mr. Z’s daughter. One night, she woke up suddenly and found that Mr. Z was touching her private parts. The next day, she told Mr. Z’s daughter about it. Unexpectedly, Mr. Z’s daughter said: “He does do this sometimes.”
  The police asked: “Which initials does Z stand for?”
  Ms. A replied: “David Sandstra”.
  The police officer who handled the case gasped. Opening the files of that year, they found that Sandstra was the pastor who presided over the Bible summer camp, called the police on the day of Gretchen’s accident, and later presided over Gretchen’s funeral. He is also a friend of Gretchen’s father.
  The police found that Sandstra’s transcript at the time described Gretchen’s outfit on the day of the accident, and even described in detail the details of a hidden button on her shorts. We all know Gretchen didn’t make it to Trinity Church that day, so how did Sandstra know this? There was only one possibility, and he was the suspect—the owner of the green station wagon.
  Such a big loophole didn’t even attract attention back then. Remorseful, the police quickly launched an investigation and found that Sandstra had moved out of Malpoor Town with his family as early as half a year after Gretchen’s death. Today, he lives in the town of Marietta in Cobo County, Georgia. The two places are far apart.

  On July 17, 2023, the police investigating the case rushed to the town of Marietta and found the 83-year-old Sandstra. Faced with the police’s questioning, he denied committing the crime. It was not until the police took out Ms. A’s diary that he admitted that he was the murderer and confessed the details of the murder.
  On the day of the murder, Gretchen was walking alone on the way to church. Sandstra drove by, stopped the car, greeted her with a smile, and proposed to take her to church by car. Gretchen got into the car without any doubts.
  Instead of heading for the church, Sandstra’s car drove into the woods. After parking the car, he reveals himself and asks Gretchen to take off his clothes. Gretchen refused, and the beastly Sandstra began beating 8-year-old Gretchen. Soon, she was bloodied and unconscious. Sandstra, who killed someone, did not panic. He folded Gretchen’s clothes, left the body in the forest, started the car and drove away.
  On July 31, 2023, Cobb County Police arrested Sandstra. The unsolved case was solved, and the brutality of the murderer aroused the anger of the people. Some netizens wrote: “If he is officially convicted, I hope he will be hanged in the square to show the public!” The inefficiency and incompetence of the police have also attracted questions from netizens: “Why did it take so long to solve the case? If he If he was neither a pastor nor a white man, I bet he would have been caught long ago.” Another netizen said: “Judging from the fact that Sandstra moved away less than a year after she was killed in Gretchen, it would have been a long time ago.” It’s time to suspect him of committing the crime.” They felt, “The police are simply epic incompetent.”
  Since the incident took place in Malpoor Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, according to US law, the court in Delaware County needs to extradite him from Georgia to try Sandstra. But Sandstra refused to be extradited. On July 31, the Delaware County prosecutor stated at a press conference, “We will definitely bring Sandstra back, we will definitely try him, we will definitely convict him, and in the end he will die in prison. middle”.
serial killer?

  While the American society was shocked by Sandstra’s crimes, the police in California, far away on the west coast of the United States, said: Maybe Sandstra was also related to the kidnapping and murder of a girl in 1991.
  The case took place in 1991 in Fairfield, California. On December 27 of that year, 4-year-old Nikki and her brother went to visit neighbors on the corner of the street. Mom and Dad promised that the brothers and sisters could visit the house alone, “but only to a few nearby houses.”
  Between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m., Nicky came out of a neighbor’s house alone. Police later determined she was trying to visit another neighbour. However, she has since disappeared.
  At 5:30 in the afternoon, Nikki’s brother came home alone. The parents immediately called the police. Police found Nikki’s pink and purple bicycle on a street corner. The police officers dispatched police dogs to search, and judged from the path tracked by the police dogs that Nikki was far away from the city center and heading towards the highway. Police believe that Nikki was taken into a car on the street and left the city with the car. But the police found no clues about the kidnappers.
  In 1992, police locked in a suspect and searched his home, but found no conclusive evidence. The person later countersued the city and was awarded a $9,000 settlement. The helpless local police appointed a full-time detective to collect clues related to Nikki’s disappearance, but to no avail for many years.
  After Sandstra’s arrest, the police cleared the backlog and investigated his work in his parish and found that he was a pastor in Fairfield from 1990 to 2005. Hearing the news, the local police saw a glimmer of hope in solving the case.
  Soon, the police in another city also claimed that Sandstra may be related to an unsolved case in which two boys were kidnapped and murdered in the city many years ago. Sandstra is not a serial killer, has become a topic of concern.
  As more investigations into cases point to Sandstra, the buzz has grown. They said mockingly: “The 50-year-old unsolved case was solved by the diary of a 10-year-old child. It seems that this diary can also solve a series of other unsolved cases.”

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