High school chemistry teacher who raped and killed Jersey Girl Scout selling cookies has died in prison

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Joseph McGowan is dead and the family of Joan D’Alessandro can rest easy knowing the man who killed her is not getting out of prison.

It was 1973 when 7-year-old Joan D’Alessandro was going door to door selling girl scout cookies when McGowan, a high school chemistry teacher who lived three doors down from her own home raped her and killed her. This weekend, he died at the South Woods State Prison in Cumberland County.

Joan told her mom she’ll be right back before going to sell cookies to the neighbors, but never returned. Her body was found wrapped up in New York’s Harriman State Park. McGowan confessed to the murder and was serving a life sentence, but there was a chance he could have been paroled and the family fought hard over the years to keep in locked up.

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He was eligible for parole in 2009 and would have been eligible in 2025 again. Joan’s death sparked “Joan’s Law” a now federal law that prevents the release of murderers who kill children under the age of 14. McGowan would have been exempt from that law as the law was passed after he was convicted.


Today, the family can rest assured, McGowan isn’t going to get released on parole.