2 men were arrested in Indiana in 1975 for killing a 17-year-old girl

According to an Indiana State Police news release, two men were arrested on Monday and charged with murder in connection with a decades-old cold case involving a northwest Indiana teenager.

On Monday, members of the Indiana State Police and Noble County Sheriff’s Department arrested Fred Bandy Jr., 67, of Goshen, and John Wayne Lehman, 67, of Auburn, in connection with the death of Laurel Mitchell of North Webster, who went missing after left work in a church camp in 1975.

Mitchell, 17, was found floating in the Elkhart River on the north side of Diamond Lake by two fishermen, according to an article appearing in the Kendallville News-Sun, August 7, 1975. Authorities initially believed that Mitchell’s death was a case of accidental drowning.

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An autopsy found Mitchell “showed signs she had been fighting for her life,” according to the press release, prompting a criminal investigation.

Around 47 years and six months after their body was found, investigators made an arrest.

“This case is the culmination of a decade-long investigation … and science has finally given us the evidence we needed,” Indiana State Police Captain Kevin Smith said in the release. Without them, we simply could not have brought these charges.”

Laboratory staff were able to solve the case after finding “a conclusive correlation” that led investigators to the two suspects.

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Bandy and Lehman were taken into custody at their respective homes without incident Monday morning, according to the press release. The men were each charged with murder and are being held without attachment at the Noble County Jail.

During a news conference Monday, Smith also thanked the news media whose coverage over the years “has resulted in many citizens submitting valuable information.”

Noble County Attorney Jim Mowery commented, “While the arrests of these two individuals is a very important step, it is not the end. The investigation into this crime is ongoing and the prosecution of these defendants has only just begun.”

What happened to Laurel Jean Mitchell?

At approximately 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 6, 1975, Laurel Jean Mitchell left work at the Epworth Forrest Church camp on the north side of North Webster Lake in Kosciusko County. She never came home.

Mitchell’s parents contacted police to report her missing. According to the press release, Mitchell’s body was found in the water about 10:30 a.m. the next day, about 17 miles northeast of North Webster at the Mallard Roost public site in western Noble County.

Indiana State Police investigators began a murder investigation that would stretch for decades and involve the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department, the Noble County Sheriff’s Department and the Noble County Coroner’s Office.

Bandy and Lehman are scheduled to have their first hearing in Noble Circuit Court on Wednesday, February 8th.

John Tufts covers nightly breaking and trending news for the Indianapolis Star. Send him a news tip at [email protected]

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana Cold Case: 2 Charged with Murder in Laurel Mitchell’s Death


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