New Jersey man who raped and murdered a seven-year-old Girl Scout 48 years ago dies in prison 


New Jersey man who raped and murdered a seven-year-old Girl Scout 48 years ago dies in prison

  • Joseph McGowan, a former high school chemistry teacher, has died in prison  
  • He was convicted of the 1973 murder of schoolgirl Joan D’Alessandro, 7
  • She was assaulted and murdered after knocking on his door to sell him cookies










A man who was convicted of raping and murdering a Girl Scout has died in a New Jersey prison. 

Joseph McGowan was sentenced to life behind bars for the 1973 murder of Joan D’Alessandro, 7, in Hillsdale, New Jersey. 

D’Alessandro was out selling cookies in her neighbourhood on April 19, 1973 when the incident happened. 

She was assaulted and murdered after knocking on McGowan’s door. 

Joseph McGowan

Victim Joan D'Alessandro

Joseph McGowan was sentenced to life behind bars for the 1973 murder of Joan D’Alessandro, 7, in Hillsdale, New Jersey

McGowan sexually assaulted, beat and strangled Joan before wrapping up her body and taking it with him in his car. 

Her body was later found at New York’s Harriman State Park on April 22. 

McGowan was working as a chemistry teacher at Tappan Zee High School at the time of her murder, and lived three doors down from her.  

McGowan had been serving a maximum life term at South Woods State Prison in Cumberland County, New Jersey, at the time of his death. 

He died June 5, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections. 

According to the victim’s family, McGowan would have been up for parole in 2025. 

‘The first thought that came into my mind is now we could concentrate on the 50th anniversary of Joan’s impactful and loving legacy, which will be 50 years in 2023,’ said the victim’s mother, Rosemarie D’Alessandro. 

‘We won’t have to use the time and energy to fight to keep him in prison.’ 

She added: ‘I am thankful to all those who came together for the victories we had to make sure he would stay in prison and not harm any more innocent children or anyone else.

‘He was not only a child killer he was a serial killer in the making.’ 



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