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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‘Sexually violent predator’ among two men charged with killing US teenager in 1975

Laurel Jean Mitchell was last seen leaving a church camp at 10pm on August 6, 1975, but was later discovered in a river, with autopsy results showing there was a ‘violent struggle’ to survive

Laurel Jean Mitchell’s body was found in a river shortly after she was reported missing by her parents on August 6, 1975 (Indiana State Police)

Two men have been charged with killing a 17-year-old girl in 1975 and one of them is a twice-convicted child molester.

John Wayne Lehman and Fred Bandy Jr, both 67, are accused of murdering Laurel Jean Mitchell nearly 48 years ago.

The young victim was last seen working at a church camp snack bar on August 6, 1975. She left at 10pm but never made it home.

Her parents Richard and Wilma Mitchell reported her as missing at 4.16am the same night. Hours later, the lifeless body of Laurel, of North Webster, Indiana, US, was found in the Elkhart River by a fisherman.

Fred Bandy Jr allegedly confessed to the crime while at a party (Uncredited/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

A murder investigation was launched after autopsy results showed the victim was involved in a “violent struggle” to survive.

The Indiana State Police and Noble County prosecutors announced that there had been a breakthrough in the case in a press conference on Tuesday.

Indiana State Police Captain Kevin Smith said: “This case is a culmination of a decades-long investigation.

“And science finally gave us the answers we needed.

“Playing a significant role in charges being filed was the Indiana State Police Laboratory Division.

“We simply could not have solved this case without them.”

According to the probable cause affidavit dated 2 February, the victim decided to walk home after finishing work and refusing a lift from a friend.

The affidavit said she

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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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News from around our 50 states


Montgomery: Alan Eugene Miller, 57, a truck driver convicted of killing three men in a workplace shooting rampage more than two decades ago is set to be put to death on Sept. 22, the Alabama Supreme Court said. The clerk’s office announced the scheduled execution date of Miller, who was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in the slayings, which occurred in Shelby County in 1999. Testimony indicated Miller was delusional and believed the two men he killed were spreading rumors about him, including one that he was gay. Although a defense psychiatrist testified Miller was mentally ill, he also said Miller’s condition wasn’t bad enough to use as a basis for an insanity defense under state law. Another Alabama inmate already is set for execution later this month. A federal judge last week ruled the execution of Joe Nathan James Jr. could go ahead as scheduled on July 28, refusing the condemned man’s request for a postponement. James was convicted of killing his former girlfriend, Faith Hall, in Birmingham, almost three decades ago.


Anchorage: Officials ended their search for a woman whose 2-year-old grandchild was found alone last week in a locked car stuck in mud on a rural road, authorities said. No clues to the whereabouts of Mary Dawn Wilson, 69, have emerged since her Ford Focus was found last Thursday with the child and personal items believed to belong to Wilson, the Alaska Department of Public Safety said in a statement Saturday. Authorities believe the child was alone in the car for two days. The search was changed from “active” to “reactive,” meaning that a search could be launched again if officials receive new information or evidence, the statement said. The statement added that at “this time, there is no evidence

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