Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Paying Honor to Slain Girl Dividing a Town

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Paying Honor to Slain Girl Dividing a Town

Article excerpt

HILLSDALE - It's been 40 years since the murder of 7-year-old Hillsdale Girl Scouts Brownie Joan D'Alessandro, whose body was found in a New York park nearby on Easter Sunday in 1973.

Joan's mother, Rosemarie D'Alessandro, has for months wanted to place in the borough a memorial to Joan that would also recognize the child-safety laws passed in the wake of the crime, but the Hillsdale Council has struggled with the monument's proposed text, which includes the words "molested" and "murdered."

The council on Thursday continued debating the language with members of the memorial foundation, who say they don't want Joan's killing sanitized, and the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, who want mental-health professionals consulted on the text.

Joseph McGowan, a high school teacher who lived across from the D'Allesandros, killed and sexually molested Joan in April 1973 when she went to his home to deliver Girl Scout cookies. Her body was found three days later in Harriman State Park. McGowan, who received a life sentence in prison, has been denied parole several times, largely because of D'Alessandro's objections.

Her mother's lobbying also led to passage of the so-called Joan's Law, which took effect in 1997 and makes anyone convicted of killing and sexually molesting a child under 14 ineligible for parole. President Bill Clinton signed a federal version on Oct. 30, 1998, and D'Alessandro was successful in having two more victims' rights laws passed.

D'Alessandro proposed the memorial to the council last December, but her hope of having the stone, which would feature a butterfly and a picture of Joan in her Brownie uniform, dedicated on Joan's birthday, Sept. 7, was dashed by disagreements over where to place it and what it should say.

D'Alessandro asked for it to be in Veterans Memorial Park, but Hillsdale Mayor Max Arnowitz said the park's purpose is to honor veterans. A tree in Veterans Memorial Park is dedicated to Joan, and there are three plaques and memorials around the borough in Joan's memory, Arnowitz noted. …

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