Jeannette DePalma: Was it a Witchcraft?


Background Information


Jeannette was born on August 3rd, 1956 in Jersey City, New Jersey to parents Florence and Salvatore DePalma. She was described as a young, kind, and beautiful woman 

who had a large Italian family, being 1 of 8 children, she had 5 sisters and 3 brothers. 

She was an Evangelist and attended church with her family. She was described as being very religious and had plans to go to bible college after high school. However, some of her friends that went to school with her said that her religion was more so pushed onto her by her family and that she had a rebellious side to her.



Jeannette DePalma had just turned 16 when she went missing on August 7th, 1972. She was living in Springfield Township at the time of her disappearance. On the day she went missing, Jeannette told her mother she was going to be taking the train to a friend’s house but never came back home that night. 

Jeannette was not the type to not come home or let someone know if she had any change of plans of where she was going or if she was going to be late. When Jeannette never arrived at the friend’s house or home her parents knew something was not right. 

When Jeannette never came home, her parents immediately contacted the police to file a missing person report. 



The following 6 weeks Jeannette remained missing, no one had heard or seen her and there were no possible sightings of her.

This changed on September 19th, 1972, when an owner was walking their dog through Houdaille Quarry when the dog suddenly went off by itself for a little while,  when the dog arrived he had brought something back in its mouth. When the owner took a look at what his dog had brought he realized it was a decomposing amputated human arm. The owner was so shaken up by seeing this and immediately called the police. 

The owner and authorities instantly thought that this could be Jeannette as everyone in the town had seen and heard about her being missing as there were missing poster flyers posted all over the town.

The authorities started searching the whole area and discovered the body of Jeannette DePalma. Her body was discovered lying face down on top of a cliff and her body was outlined with rocks and there were small sticks that were placed inside the perimeter as crosses.

Jeannette’s body was so badly decomposed when it was found due to being in the location she was found and the change of weather, an autopsy was unable to be conducted and her identity was confirmed through dental records.

However, x-rays were taken of her skull to see if there were any fractures or bullet holes but nothing was discovered, as well as her clothing showed no knife strikes. To this day Jeannette’s cause of death has never been confirmed but the medical examiner suspected that she was strangled or overdosed.

Even though an autopsy was not done, the medical examiner did discover an unusually large amount of lead in her system but there was no explanation for this and to this day there is still no explanation.  

When the news of Jeannette’s body being found came out, everyone in the town was shaken up as there was a killer on the loose. People couldn’t figure out why someone would want to hurt Jeannette or who could have done such a thing.

Months following the discovery of her body, in January 1973 the FBI tested Jeannette’s clothing that she was wearing when her body was discovered.

This included her navy blue shirt, tan pants, and underwear, along with some of the soil surrounding the area where her body was found however the FBI stated that “there were no apparent foreign hairs found on her clothing” but something that was found was the stains in her underwear, bra, blouse, and pants but unfortunately the stains were too decomposed to get a proper sample of what the stains could be a cause of.  



At the time of Jeannette’s death, some things were happening in the US which has led to some of the theories in this case such as satanism and witchcraft.

In 1972 many Americans were going through something referred to as the Jesus Movement, this started to happen when the hippie generation started to slow down and many families were turning to religious beliefs. At the same time as this many others were getting into witchcraft and satanism.

11 days after Jeannette’s body was found, the Home News Tribune wrote an article saying “authorities were investigating the possibility that witchcraft and satan worship was involved in the death of Jeannette”

There were several reportings of sacrifices that involved dead animals, less than 2 miles away from where Jeannette’s body was discovered. This is when all of the rumors led many people to believe her death was something to with the satanic rituals.  

As well as The Home News Tribune newspaper, other articles were written that said Jeannette DePalma’s could have been a victim of human sacrifice carried out by a local coven of witches that allegedly operated inside a nearby Watchung Reservation in Union County.


The cliff Jeannette’s body was found on was referred to by locals as ‘The Devil’s Teeth.’ As mentioned previously, Jeannette’s body had a high amount of lead in her system which there was no explanation for, however many people have said witchcraft led is used in these rituals.

Additionally, people have made connections to the rocks and sticks shaped like crosses, found around Jeannette’s body as a ritualistic killing. All of these theories are just speculation, there have never been any facts or confirmation of these.  

Other theories, in this case, include a tip that came to authorities when Jeanette’s body was found, saying that there was a homeless man that was known to often hang around in that park however this homeless man named Red, left the park after her body was found. Due to the timing of this situation, people believed he was somehow involved, but authorities ruled him out after questioning him. 

An officer named Donald Schwerdt, who worked on Jeannette’s case, who was also one of the first officers to see her body, believed this to be a drug overdose, even though no drugs were found in her system.

The officer said she was found wearing flip-flops, someone had to have been with her because he was wearing hiking boots and was struggling to walk up that hill she was found on. This officer also said after looking at some of Jeannette’s friends they confirmed that they were involved in drugs and hoped that maybe someone would eventually come forward, however, no one has ever come forward. 

Jeannette’s nephew, Ray Sajeski has said he does not believe either theories, satanic killing or overdose but does believe she was murdered.    

The last theory includes the Pastor at the family’s church. Reverend Pastor James Tate was one of the first people to be interviewed by the newspapers after Jeannette’s body was found.

An article that spoke about her death being part of a satanic ritual also included statements made by Pastor James Tate saying Jeannette and her sister had struggled with drug use in the past. He said many kids in the area that use drugs have said while on drugs they are in the control of Satan, they do/say things they don’t want to but they are under the control of evil.

Jeannette was known to be close with the Reverend and was working with him in a program made to help people who struggled with drug addiction, which meant they spent a lot of time together. Jeannette was dating Wayne Tate who was the son of the Reverend but had broken up just a week or two weeks before her disappearance/murder.

Theories about the Reverent and his son being somehow involved have been brought up, as people found it coincidental that about a week before Jeannette’s death their relationship had ended as well as the Reverend going to the media to give interviews about Jeannette being involved in drugs and being involved in the wrong crowd. 

Contact Information


So many years have passed but the family has never given up hope in finding what happened to Jeannette DePalma. 

If you have any information about the death of Jeannette DePalma you can send an email to 

There is also an official website for Jeannette’s case where you can find information about the case and contact the family

Resources and Further Information

Justice for Jeannette DePalma change from ‘suspicious death’ to ‘homicide’

Petition on to change Jeannette DePalma’s death from ‘suspicious death’ to homicide’

Justice for Jeannette DePalma Facebook page

Jeannette DePalma Book:

Podcast: Unsolved mysteries: True crime stories ‘Ritual Sacrifice – Jeannette DePalma

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