Judge quashes DNA test suit in teen's mysterious 1972 death

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) — 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 fire truck 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 crows 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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Information from: NJ.com, http://www.nj.com