Two men arrested in 1975 Indiana cold-case slaying

Laurel Jean Mitchell, 17, was found dead in the Elkhart River in Noble County in 1975. DNA evidence led police to arrest two men Tuesday in connection with her death.

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Fred Bandy Jr. (left) and John Lehman are being held at Noble County Jail in Indiana, charged in the 1975 slaying of Laurel Jean Mitchell.

Noble County Jail

More than 47 years after Laurel Jean Mitchell was found slain, Indiana State Police say two men face murder charges, culminating a decadeslong investigation.

On Aug. 6, 1975, Mitchell, 17, disappeared after leaving her job about 10 p.m. at the Epworth Forest Church camp in Kosciusko County. When the teen didn’t come home later that night, her parents reported her missing to police.

The following morning, Mitchell’s body was found in the Elkhart River by a fisherman. Investigators initially suspected that the teen had drowned in the river, but an autopsy showed signs of a struggle, and her death was ruled a homicide.

On Tuesday morning, Fred Bandy Jr., 67, of Goshen, Indiana, and John Wayne Lehman, 67, of Auburn, Indiana, were arrested and taken to Noble County Jail, where they remain held without bond, police said in a press release. Both men face one count of murder, police said.

According to Indiana State Police Capt. Kevin Smith, modern lab technology led to the arrest of both men.

When Mitchell’s clothing was resubmitted to the Indiana State Police Laboratory Division for examination and DNA testing in 2019, investigators were able to link her death to Bandy.

And tips previously shared with police by the public helped investigators find Lehman.

“This case is a culmination of a decadeslong investigation … and science finally gave us the evidence we needed,” Smith said.

“The public’s willingness to bring forward important information was key to solving this case, and I thank them,” Smith added.

Both men will have a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Noble County Circuit Court.

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