June 24, 2024

Psychic on Gretchen Harrington Case in 1975 Reacts to Pastor’s Arrest

  • Psychic Judith Richardson Haimes worked with police to solve nearly 100 criminal cases.
  • In 1984, she told police in Delaware that missing 8-year-old Gretchen Harrington was dead.
  • Now that a former pastor was charged with the killing Monday, she told Insider she prayed then she was wrong.

Judith Richardson Haimes used her psychic abilities to assist law enforcement in solving nearly 100 criminal cases throughout the northeast, but — as a mom to six — none were more difficult than those that involved missing children. 

In 1975, Delaware police sought her out for help locating missing 8-year-old Gretchen Harrington. Harrington disappeared on her walk to bible camp in Marple, Pennsylvania. that August.

In September, Richardson Haimes sat in a room with police, and made a prediction  that she told Insider she prayed was wrong. 

“I remember blurting out, ‘Oh my God, she’s dead,’ and everybody being so upset,” the Richardson Haimes, now 79, told Insider Tuesday. “It’s very difficult.”

Harrington’s remains were found a month later. 

On Monday, nearly a half century after later, Delaware County prosecutors filed murder and kidnapping charges against David G. Zandstra, who was living in Marietta, Georgia. 

At the time of Harrington’s death, Zandstra was a pastor at Trinity Church Chapel Christian Reform Church in Broomall and a friend of the Harrington family, the District Attorney said. 

Prosecutors said the arrest was the result of a friend of Zandstra’s daughter coming forward to police. 

The woman told police that when she was 10-years-old she awoke at a sleepover to Zandstra touching her groin area, and that when she told his daughter what happened she said that her father did that sometimes. 

The woman also handed investigators her diary from 1975, and in it she wrote that a child in her class was nearly kidnapped twice, and she believed it was Zandstra. 

This month, investigators confronted Zandstra about the sexual abuse allegations in Georgia and he admitted to them that he killed Harrington after picking her up on her walk to camp, prosecutors said. 

“He admitted to offering Gretchen a ride and taking her to a nearby wooded area. The defendant stated that he had parked the car and asked the victim to remove her clothing,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement.

When Harrington refused, Zandstra struck her in the head with a fist, prosecutors said, based on his interview with investigators. Prosecutors say Zandstra believed she was dead, covered her body, and left the area. 

“It’s a knife in your throat. The first thing you do as a mom is say, ‘God, please let me wrong. Let me make a fool of myself,” Richardson Haimes said Tuesday. “I have goose pimples all over because I wanted so much to be wrong.” 

David Zandstra

David Zandstra was charged with the murder of an 8-year-old girl at bible camp a half century ago.

Delaware County District Attorney’s Office via AP



Richardson Haimes said she didn’t remember a lot of details about the nearly 50-year-old case, but recalls a feeling that the person responsible was someone involved with the Sunday school or bible school. 

“I knew if they didn’t get him back then he would hide in plain sight,” she said.

Richardson Haimes said she downplayed her work with police to avoid being targeted 

Richardson Haimes said she had strict rules about missing persons cases.

She’d never work on a case if a victim’s family was in the room, and when they called her directly she referred them to police. She was only involved in cases where police specifically reached out to her for help, she said.

And in most cases, she didn’t want it known publicly she was involved — fearing for the safety of her family.

She wasn’t just afraid of retaliation from criminals, but also from skeptics who didn’t like that she was taken seriously by police.

In one case in New Jersey, for example, when a young woman’s headless torso was found, she assisted state police. Someone in the agency must have leaked her involvement, and she said she was targeted.

“One day, there was a bang on my front porch. I went and opened a bag they left,” she said. “In it was a head of cabbage.” 

In 1977, Richardson Haimes retired from working as a professional psychic for private clients, and from doing volunteer work for police departments, after an allergic reaction to medication during a CAT scan left her with a brain bleed that gave her severe migraines when she tried to concentrate.

She initially won a famous lawsuit against Temple University in Philiadelphia after she claimed the allergic reaction caused her to lose income as a psychic, but the case — and reward — was later overturned.

After many years, she stopped having the severe headaches, but only does readings for herself. 

“No psychic ever solves a crime. It’s not how it works,” she said. “We are an investigative aid. We help.”

Richardson Haimes described being psychic as having a sixth sense that can’t be easily explained. 

For her, it was her mother who first figured out she could predict things would happen — or knew what happened in the past — when she was around six years old and living in rural Kentucky.

Her mother was worried that others in the town would find out. 

“In bible belt Kentucky, someone like me was possessed,” she said.

Richardson Haimes, though, doesn’t think her gifts like hers are extraordinary and understands it as primal.

“There are different people in my field — people who are absolute frauds, and people who are well meaning idiots,” she said. “And then there are people who have a highly developed sixth sense, not much more than an animal instinct.”

 

Today, Richardson Haimes lives on the Gulf of Mexico in Clearwater, Florida. 

Her oldest daughter, who is in her 60’s, has “a tremendous amount of psychic ability,” but never leaned into it professionally.

Three of her sons went on to work in law enforcement, which she credits, in part, to her own work in the criminal justice field. There have been moments she congratulated them on using their “sixth sense” in cases, but they snipped back that it’s just “cop sense,” she recalled.

“You can say they have a healthy dose of skepticism,” she said. “You have to have it with this. You can’t just take people at their word. They have to show you the proof.” 

As for Zandstra, Richardson Haimes said she’s thrilled they’ve found “the perpetrator,” but doesn’t believe that Harrington’s killing was an accident. 

Insider could not locate a lawyer for Zandstra, who has been denied bail and is fighting extradition from Georgia to Delaware.

“I guess that eases his conscious,” she said. ” I can tell you that’s for sure not the way it happened.” 

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