NORTH WEBSTER, Ind.– A 1975 murder of a teen girl found in Noble County is one step closer to justice. After 47 and a half years two men have been arrested and charged two men in connection with the crime thanks to modern DNA technology and a few tips.
The suspects identified as Fred Bandy, Jr., 67, of Goshen, and John Wayne Lehman, 67, of Auburn. Both men face one count of murder, and are currently being held without bond at the Noble County Jail.
On Aug. 6,1975, Laurel Jean Mitchell disappeared while going to meet friends at what was once the Adventureland theme park in town, after work in the quiet community of Epworth Forest.
After all these years The Indiana State Police and the town of North Webster have not given up hope. Locals told ABC57, North Webster’s own Kevin Smith with the Indiana State Police Department has spent countless hours on the case. Tonight, he said in a press conference, he can sleep a little better, but his work is not done yet.
The town of North Webster is overcome with joy of the news. In the tight knit community, even if you did not know the Mitchell Family, you know someone who did. Amanda Hare was not living in town at the time of the disappearance, but used to cut a member of The Mitchell family’s hair, she and everyone in her A K Hare Company, was filled with excitement after hearing the news.
“all these years have gone by and I’m just excited the police officers stayed on it and will give everyone closer,” said Hare.
In the tight knit lake town, where this sort of thing never happens, those still here all remember the news, and have not felt fully at ease since. Mary Ann Collins was just 14 at the time. She and her sister, the same age as Mitchell spent their summers at Lake Webster– where Laurel worked in what is now The Beach House and the Adventureland theme park, Mitchell never made it to.
“Everyone will remember that name… from the 70’s.. because my mom was a single mom, and she was so afraid to let my sister and I go out.. because I was 14 and my sister was 17 so it was a pretty scary time around here,” said Collins who works at The Pearl Antique shop in town.
North Webster residents were not just excited for the town, but more importantly for the Mitchell family.
“I am so excited you’re telling us they solved t because the Mitchell family deserves closure… and I’m excited for Bruce to have that, and I’m sorry his parents didn’t,” said Hare.
Mitchell’s younger sister Sarah was just 12 at the time, she told ABC57, she never thought she would see this day she’s waited for almost 50 years when she received the call of the arrest Monday night. She tells us while she wishes her parents were here to see this, she knows they are dancing. She also thanks Kevin Smith and those who sent in tips.