Two Indiana men, including a known child molester, arrested for the 1975 murder of a church camp worker, 17


Laurel Mitchell disappeared in August 1975 and was found drowned in a river 17 miles from her home.

Two 67-year-old men in Indiana have been arrested for the murder of a 17-year-old church camp worker who was killed nearly 50 years ago while walking home from work.

Laurel Mitchell’s relatives raised the alarm on August 6, 1975 after she went missing after her shift at the Epworth Forest Church camp, 40 miles northwest of Fort Wayne.

Her body was found the next day in a river 17 miles from her home.

Some local residents claimed to have heard a voice saying ‘let’s get her’ and a car door slamming, but Captain Kevin Smith spent decades searching for her killer, failing to arrest him.

On Tuesday, however, Smith told a news conference that two local men had been arrested the day before and charged with her murder.

One of them, Fred Bandy Jr., had served time in prison for child molestation.

In 2001, he pleaded guilty to solicitation of minors and contributing to the delinquency of a minor; in 2016, he pleaded guilty to two counts of child molestation and served almost six years.

His childhood friend who was also arrested for the murder, John Wayne Lehman, does not appear to have a criminal record.

Fred Bandy Jr, 67, was arrested Monday.

John Wayne Lehman, also 67, was arrested at his home Monday.

Fred Bandy Jr (left) and John Wayne Lehman (right), both 67, were arrested Monday.

An autopsy report earlier stated that she “showed signs that she had fought for her life.”

“This case is the culmination of a decades-long investigation,” Smith said Tuesday.

‘And science finally gave us the answers we needed.

The Indiana State Police Laboratory Division played a significant role in the charges filed. We simply could not have solved this case without them.’

Smith submitted the teen’s clothing for further DNA analysis in 2019, and modern technology has provided a more complete picture.

Three suspects were eliminated as possibilities, according to the documents, the focus being on Bandy.

It is believed they used genealogy databases to track him down, and he voluntarily gave a DNA sample before Christmas.

The cheek swab showed that he is “thirteen billion (13,000,000) times more likely to be the contributor of the DNA on Laurel J. Mitchell’s clothing than any other unknown person,” charging documents obtained by law and crime.

Investigators concluded that Lehman and Bandy seized Bandy’s Oldsmobile and, “with premeditated malice,” tore her off the road and drove her to the “Mallard Roost Public Access Site” in Noble County.

They said the couple dragged her out of the vehicle and “deliberately drowned” her.

Captain Kevin Smith announced the arrests, nearly 50 years after the young woman was killed.

Captain Kevin Smith announced the arrests, nearly 50 years after the young woman was killed.

The couple appeared on police radar in 2013 when a woman, Ranae Sexton, came forward and said that Lehman, after a date and party when she was 16 in 1975, admitted to her that he and his friend Bandy committed a crime.

A year later, in July 2014, Bill McDonald, identified as a high school sophomore at the time of the murder, told police that Bandy also confessed to the crime while at a party.

The documents allege that Bandy also disclosed Lehman’s alleged involvement.

Sarah Knisley, Mitchell’s sister, praised Smith for her dogged determination to solve the case.

She said The New York Times that Smith carried “big books” with him detailing the names and addresses of all the people authorities had interviewed over the years.

“There were over 1,000 names on there,” he said.

She said she was sad that her parents were not alive to see the arrests.

“I always wondered, you know, how it would have turned out,” Knisley said of her sister.

She missed prom, she missed graduation, she missed getting married, having kids, and all that.

It was a waste and I had no one to share all of it with. Anyone to get information, to help me grow.