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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 to NorthJersey.com. 

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. 

Joan D'Alessandro, 7, was selling Girl Scout cookies when she was murdered by her neighbor Joseph McGowan in 1973.
Joan D’Alessandro, 7, was selling Girl Scout cookies when she was murdered by her neighbor Joseph McGowan in 1973.

“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 in prison.”

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 level. 

“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.” 

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