Details of Disappearance
Rosemary was last seen at her family's home in the 90 block of Center Avenue in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey at 6:00 p.m. on August 25, 1969. Her mother gave her two dollars and sent her out to buy milk and ice pops for the family's dinner. The store was only two blocks away, and Rosemary was expected to return home within a few minutes, but she never arrived. She has never been heard from again. Her mother reported her disappearance to the police two hours after she was last seen.
Rosemary is the youngest of four children and the only child still living with her parents by the time of her disappearance. She had only recently started dating, had no steady boyfriend, and was generally kept very sheltered by her family. She was not allowed out at night without being accompanied by her parents, and she was afraid of the dark. At the time of her disappearance, her father was in poor health and had taken leave from his job as a result. Rosemary assumed many household responsibilities, including shopping for groceries and paying bills, due to her father's illness. Her parents never believed she ran away from home, as this was extremely uncharacteristic of her behavior.
When authorities canvassed the area, they found four of Rosemary's high school classmates who claimed to have seen her riding in a car with a stranger, an older male. The vehicle was described as a beat-up black and white Ford Galaxy convertible. The boys followed the car in their own vehicle for a few blocks, because they were curious about seeing Rosemary with an older man. The police made a composite drawing of the unidentified man based off the boys' descriptions. After this sighting was reported in the newspapers, a woman told investigators that a man matching the sketch and driving a similar car had offered a ride to her twelve-year-old daughter and her daughter's friend. He made the offer on three separate occasions and also offered to give the girls some wine. The girls had memorized the vehicle's license plate and police determined it belonged to Robert Zarinsky. Photographs of him are posted below this case summary.
Zarinsky had a history of antisocial and criminal behavior dating back to his childhood, and was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. After linking him to Rosemary's disappearance, authorities arrested him for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. This charge was connected to his allegedly offering alcohol to the two underage girls, but police believed he had also harmed Rosemary. He was seen washing the trunk of his Ford Galaxy after Rosemary went missing, something he rarely did. When authorities inspected the car, the window and door handles on the passenger side were absent. One of Rosemary's hair clips was found on the floor of the vehicle, and in the backseat was a pair of blue women's panties. Rosemary's mother identified the panties as her daughter's, but Zarinsky's wife stated they were her own. A ball-peen hammer with a bloodstained hair stuck to the end was also located. After his arrest, Rosemary's four high school classmates identified Zarinsky as the man they had seen with her on the evening of her disappearance. While he was in jail, he allegedly confessed Rosemary's murder to a cellmate, and said no one would ever find her body.
Zarinsky was convicted on the charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but his conviction was overturned on appeal and he was released. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) analyzed the bloody hair found in his car and linked it to another teenager, Linda Balabanow, whose body was found in the Raritan River in Port Reading, New Jersey four months before Rosemary disappeared. She had been strangled with an electrical cord. Authorities suspected Zarinsky had killed her and also murdered Joanne Delardo and Donna Carlucci, two teenage girls from Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, who were both also strangled with an electrical cord. There was not enough evidence to prosecute in any of the cases, however.
In 1974, Zarinsky was charged with Rosemary's murder on the basis of circumstantial evidence. He was convicted in 1975 and sentenced to ninety-eight years in prison. He was the first person in the state of New Jersey to be convicted of murder in a case where the victim's body had not been found. In 1999, he was additionally charged with murder in the 1958 shooting death of Charles Bernoskie, a police officer. He was acquitted, but Bernoskie's widow won a $9.5 million civil judgement against him in 2003.
At one of his parole hearings, Zarinsky stated he had killed Rosemary accidentally. He said he had driven her to a local lover's lane and she had gotten drunk and left his vehicle to relieve herself, and he accidentally backed over her and killed her. Prior to making this statement, for years he had denied having even ever met Rosemary. In April 2008, he was charged with murder in the 1968 death of a thirteen-year-old girl, Jane Durrua. She had been raped, beaten and strangled. He was awaiting trial for the murder when he died of pulmonary fibrosis in December 2008. Authorities believe Zarinsky was a serial killer; he is a suspect in several murders besides the ones he was charged with, and his own sister attributed as many as ten homicides to him.
Rosemary's remains have never been located, but foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.
Left: Zarinsky in 1969;
Center: Zarinsky in 1975;
Right: Zarinsky, circa 2007