Goshen man arrested in connection with 1975 cold case

Fred Bandy Jr.

John Wayne Lehman

NOBLE COUNTY, Ind. – Indiana State Police have arrested two men in connection with the death of a teenager in 1975.

Fred Bandy Jr., 67, of Goshen, and John Wayne Lehman, 67, of Auburn, Indiana, were arrested in their respective homes on Monday.

At 10 p.m. on August 6, 1975, 17-year-old Laurel Jean Mitchell of North Webster left her job at Epworth Forrest Church camp on North Webster Lake but did not arrive home.

Her parents reported her missing at 4:16 a.m. on August 7 and around 10:30 a.m. that same day, her body was found in the water at the Mallard Roost public access site in Noble County, about 17 miles northeast of North Webster.

Her cause of death was listed as drowning but autopsy results showed Mitchell made a struggle before she died, according to reports.

When Mitchell left work on August 6, she planned to meet up with friends at the Adventureland amusement park on the north side of North Webster, about a half-mile away from Epworth. 

Mitchell is believed to have walked on Epworth Forest Road to get to the amusement park. 

A woman who lived on Epworth Forest Road said that around 10 p.m. on August 6, an old car turned into a driveway next door and then passed her house. As it passed, the woman said she heard several voices say, “let’s get” or “let’s get her,” according to reports. 

No arrests were made, and the case stayed open for several years.

In 2013, a woman living in Florida contact the Noble County Sheriff’s Department and said she was 16 years old and lived in Noble County in 1975. The woman said she went on a date with a man named John Wayne Lehman and he admitted to

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North Webster one step closer to closure following arrests made in 1975 cold case

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

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Two arrested in 1975 cold case killing of Indiana teen Laurel Mitchell


Laurel Jean Mitchell had just left work at a church camp in North Webster, Ind., and started the walk to an amusement park to meet friends.

But she never made it to Adventureland that night in August 1975. The 17-year-old’s body was found in a river the next morning.

Despite an investigation that spanned multiple Indiana agencies and counties, the case went unsolved for decades, leaving Mitchell’s family with no answers.

Her cause of death was listed as drowning, but the autopsy revealed “she had fought for her life,” authorities said. A newly filed affidavit in the case alleges that two men took Mitchell while she was walking and drove to the river before they “forcibly, deliberately drowned” her.

On Monday, nearly 50 years later, state police arrested Fred Bandy Jr. of Goshen, Ind., and John Wayne Lehman of Auburn, Ind., charging both with murder in Mitchell’s killing. The Indiana State Police said Tuesday that the breakthrough came over the past couple of months with DNA analysis that matched samples collected from the clothing Mitchell wore in 1975.

“Science finally gave us the evidence we needed,” State Police Capt. Kevin Smith said at a news conference Tuesday, adding that the organization’s laboratory division members were the “unsung heroes” of many cases, including Mitchell’s.

Bandy and Lehman, both 67, are being held in the Noble County Jail without bond. Attorneys for the men declined to comment Wednesday evening.

She was kidnapped as a baby in 1971. Her family just found her alive.

On Aug. 6, 1975, Mitchell finished working at the snack bar at the Epworth Forest church camp around 10 p.m., and her co-worker offered her a ride home, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Tuesday.

She declined, saying she already had one.


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