A New Jersey man who raped and killed a 7-year-old Girl Scout
after she knocked on his door to sell him cookies has died in
prison, reports said.
Joseph McGowan was sentenced to life in prison following the
1973 murder of Joan D’Alessandro and died June 5 while serving
out his term at the South Woods State Prison in Cumberland
County, the New Jersey Department of Corrections said, according
His cause of death wasn’t immediately known.
McGowan was working as a chemistry teacher and lived three doors
down from Joan at the time of her death, the outlet said.
“She said, ‘Goodbye, Mommy. I’ll be right back,’” mom Rosemarie
D’Alessandro told News 12 of her daughter’s last words to her.
McGowan admitted to the murder and little Joan’s body was later
found at New York’s Harriman State Park.
He was sentenced to life in prison for the crime but was still
eligible for parole, family said.
McGowan last failed to convince the parole board in 2009 and
would’ve had another shot come 2025 — an opportunity the family
is grateful he’ll no longer have.
“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,” D’Alessandro
told the outlet, calling the parole hearings “torture.”
“We won’t have to use the time and energy to fight to keep him
Following her daughter’s murder, D’Alessandro helped create
“Joan’s Law,” which forbids criminals who murder kids under 14
in connection with a sexual offense the ability to get parole.
In 1998, a similar version of the law was passed on the federal
“Joan could’ve been put in a cemetery and left there,” the mom
said of the law’s creation.
“I didn’t want to leave Joan there. I wanted her to be
remembered, to be known. She stood up for others, I was going to
stand up for her.”
While Joan’s Law wouldn’t have applied to McGowan as it passed
after his conviction, D’Alessandro is just grateful his cell
became his tomb.
“I’m so thankful he didn’t make it out,” she told News 12.
“So this way no other children, no other adults can lose their
lives and suffer a lot, and that’s what I’m so thankful for.”