OAN Roy Francis
9:03 AM PT – Thursday, February 9, 2023
Two men have been arrested and charged in the 1975 murder of a 17-year-old teen.
Almost 50 years after the teenage girl disappeared and was later found dead in northern Indiana, authorities have arrested and charged two men for the crime, thanks to a recent DNA match.
On august 6, 1975, 17-year-old Laurel Jean Mitchell did not return home after her job at the Epworth Forrest Church Camp which was located on the northern end of Webster Lake in Kosciusko County.
The young girl’s parents reported her missing, but her body was found the next morning in the water about 17 miles away from her house.
The cause of death was first determined to be drowning, however, a murder investigation was initiated after the autopsy report suggested that the teen had “fought for her life.”
“The initial investigators spent thousands of hours trying to solve her murder,” said a spokesperson for the Indiana State Police on Tuesday. “Over the next five decades numerous detectives would continue to work on her case, all the while her family would suffer with no answers.”
Police finally arrested two men, Fred Bandy Jr., 67, and John Wayne Lehman, 67 after a break in the case.
Both men were arrested at their homes and taken into custody on Monday morning. They were charged with murder and admitted in the Noble County Jail, where they are held without bail.
The investigation had changed course months ago when lab workers were able to match a DNA sample taken from Mitchell’s clothing to a sample collected from Bandy at the end of 2022.
The match led police to arrest Bandy and Lehman, who, according to a tip provided to the Sheriff’s Department almost 10 years ago, had admitted to committing a crime with Bandy in 1975.
Two other individuals had also previously contacted investigators and said that Bandy had admitted to the crime on more than one occasion.
During a press conference, Indiana State Police Captain Kevin Smith talked about the decades-long investigation and thanked the public for their help.
“This case is a culmination of a decades-long investigation,” he said. “Science finally gave us the answers we needed.”
The Police Captain also thanked the media who “gave this case coverage, which kept the public informed.”
Noble County Prosecutor Jim Mowry commented on the investigation and the arrest.
“While the arrest of these two individuals is a very important step, this isn’t the end,” he said. “The investigation of this crime is still ongoing and the prosecution of these defendants has just begun.”
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