August 7, 2022, a 50-year Prayer Vigil was held on the steps of Springfield, NJ townhall for murdered 16-year-old Jeannette DePalma. It was a beautiful evening service that featured Pastor Brennan from Evangel Church in Scotch Plains, NJ, Deputy Mayor Chris Weber of Springfield, NJ and Ed Salzano representing Justice for Jeannette. The Vigil was unifying and was inspired by Jeannette's mother, Florence DePalma’s dying wish from many years ago.
We must go back to 2005 when Florence DePalma asked Pastor Brennan for help. After a Sunday morning service at Evangel Church, Florence was distressed, and pleaded for help with Jeannette’s case and gave Pastor Brennan an envelope full of newspaper clippings. Florence said to Pastor Brennan, “You have to do something; don't let them forget about Jeannette!”
In 2008, when the world was focused on the Golf Classic in Springfield, NJ, Pastor Brennan wrote a letter to the editor of The Star Ledger to fulfill Florence’s wishes. The letter read in part: “To this day her mother grieves when justice might come for Jeannette.” The letter was published, and Pastor Brennan prayed someone would come forward, but no one did.
Eleven years later in 2019, Ed Salzano of Justice for Jeannette, sued the Union County Prosecutor's office under a writ of mandamus to compel them to change Jeannette’s death to a homicide, so it could be solved.
This was enough for senior crime reporter Rebecca Everett of The Star-Ledger to write a new article about Jeannette on August 28, 2019, entitled “Satanists were blamed for unsolved death of N.J. teen in 1970s. But nobody was charged, yet.” While writing the article, Rebecca found Pastor Brennan’s original letter from 2008 in the archives.
Pastor Brennan was quoted:
“Florence came to me one day and shoved an envelope in my hands. It was all the newspaper clippings about her daughter’s death. She asked me to keep the cause alive so that Jeannette DePalma’s killing would be solved.” "She said, ‘I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be on this earth; don’t let them forget about my daughter, Jeannette.”
Rebecca concluded the article with:
“He hopes [Brennan], like Salzano, that raising awareness and pressuring the prosecutor’s office might bring about some new leads.”
“The family needs justice. Jeannette needs justice,” Brennan said.
Back to current day and the 50th year Prayer Vigil. About 35 people were in attendance.
Justice for Jeannette after 17 years is currently unified in Florence DePalma’s wishes to upholding Jeannette’s memory and solving her murder.
Brennan, Weber, and Salzano had some compelling things to say about the 50-year-old cold case:
Chris Weber was surprised to learn that he shared the same birthday as Jeannette, which is August 3rd. He also commented, “This is not a perfect murder, somewhere someone knows something. The township will do all it can do to solve this.”
Pastor Brennan shared some compelling words at the vigil. “There are no statutes of limitations for murder. There is no expiration date for Justice. Justice must be done – 5 days, 5 years, 50 years, 500 years, it does not matter. We are here today to recognize that it has not fully been done in this situation.”
Edward Salzano made a statement, “We're only getting bigger, nothing will stop us from finding out the truth.” Salzano also said law enforcement is taking the case seriously and hopes to see movement so Jeannette can get her Justice. He thanks Jen Rizzo, a citizen advocate, and a member of Evangel church for helping make this possible.
Holly Zuelle, advocate, and cofounder of Justice for Jeannette who was also at the vigil stated: “Jeannette was only 16, four days before she went missing. No child should be forgotten or murdered. There is enough DNA technology to solve this case. It is time for Jeannette to get her Justice.”
The vigil ended with Paul Lerin playing a beautiful song on his 12-string guitar that he dedicated to Jeannette titled, “I Hardly Knew You.”
Salzano said the organizations next goal is to change Jeannette’s death from a suspicious death to a homicide and then test the DNA.
The organization Justice for Jeannette hopes with the help of the community and the church, that the case will come to a close and their next vigil will be celebrating Jeannette’s solved case.
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To learn more, go to Justice for Jeannette on Facebook