DNA test suit quashed in teen’s ’72 death mys­tery

The Morning Call - - LOCAL/REGION - As­so­ci­ated Press

EL­IZ­A­BETH, N.J. – A New Jersey judge has quashed an ef­fort to com­pel DNA test­ing on cloth­ing aimed at solv­ing the mys­te­ri­ous death of a teenage girl al­most a half-cen­tury ago.

Judge Karen Cassidy ruled Fri­day in dis­miss­ing the law­suit that res­i­dent Ed Salzano doesn’t have stand­ing to sue the Union County pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice and the court can’t tell au­thor­i­ties how to in­ves­ti­gate a crime, NJ.com re­ported.

Salzano, 56, of Spring­field Town­ship, never knew Jeanette DePalma, but has re­searched her 1972 dis­ap­pear­ance and death and raised aware­ness about the cold case for six years.

DePalma had just turned 16 when she left her house in Au­gust 1972 to visit a friend in Sum­mit, ac­cord­ing to news­pa­per re­ports at the time.

She was con­sid­ered a po­ten­tial run­away un­til the fol­low­ing month, when a dog turned up with her arm. Her re­mains were then found in Houdaille Quarry on a rocky bluff known by lo­cals as the Devil’s Teeth.

The cause and man­ner of death were never de­ter­mined. News­pa­pers re­ported ram­pant ru­mors that it was a sa­tanic killing, and po­lice in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case told the Star-Ledger that they even brought a witch to the scene to check for signs of the oc­cult.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors also told the news­pa­per that some­one had placed crosses by the girl’s head and made a cof­fin-like shape around her body with wood. A coro­ner’s re­port, how­ever, de­scribes a “rock for­ma­tion sur­round­ing the body.”

The ter­rain was so chal­leng­ing that a firetruck with an aerial lad­der was used to re­trieve the body.

Salzano ar­gued that Jeanette, who was not an out­doorsy type, couldn’t have climbed the bluff on her own in flip-flops.

Rel­a­tives and the pas­tor at the teen’s church spoke fa­vor­ably of her char­ac­ter, but some of­fi­cers later told au­thors of a book about the case that she may have fallen in with a bad crowd and be­gan us­ing drugs.

DePalma’s nephew, Ray Sa­jeski, told MyCen­tralJersey.com that he doesn’t be­lieve the drug or sa­tanic killing spec­u­la­tion but does be­lieve she was mur­dered.

Jesse P. Pollack, one of the au­thors of “Death on the Devil’s Teeth,” said his re­search and con­ver­sa­tions with po­lice sources in­di­cate that the cloth­ing Salzano wanted to test may not be avail­able, since po­lice told him some ev­i­dence from that time was de­stroyed in a 1995 flood.

Prose­cu­tors de­clined com­ment on the judge’s de­ci­sion but said in a state­ment that the case “re­mains open and has never been closed.”

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