KOSCIUSKO COUNTY, Ind. — Two men have been arrested decades after a 17-year-old girl was killed in 1975.
In a news release, Indiana State Police said on Monday investigators arrested two men in connection to the death of Laurel Jean Mitchell in 1975.
Mitchell left work on Aug. 6, 1975, at the Epworth Forrest Church camp around 10 p.m. and never returned home, according to WTHR.
Her body was found the next day just after 10:30 a.m. in a body of water about 17 miles northeast of North Webster. According to WTHR, Mitchell’s death at first appeared to be a drowning but an autopsy report revealed that she fought for her life.
According to WTHR, the Indiana State Police - Ligonier Post along with the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department, Noble County Sheriff’s Department, and Noble County Coroner’s Office began to investigate.
Indiana State Police said that forty-seven years and six months after her death, investigators with Indiana State Police and the Noble County Sheriff’s Department arrested Fred Bandy Jr., 67, and John Wayne Lehman, 67. Both were taken into custody at their houses.
Bandy and Lehman have both been charged with a count of murder and are being held without bond, according to authorities.
The break in the investigation came over the last six months as Indiana State Police laboratory personnel were able to make “an evidentiary correlation” that led investigators to the two suspects, according to the news release.
“This case is a culmination of a decades-long investigation… and science finally gave us the evidence we needed. Playing a significant role in charges being filed was the Indiana State Police Laboratory Division. We simply could not have filed these charges without them,” said Indiana State Police Captain Kevin Smith in a news conference Tuesday per the news release.
Bandy and Lehman are scheduled to have their first court hearing on Feb. 8, according to WTHR.
“While the arrest of these two individuals is a very important step, this isn’t the end. The investigation of this crime is still ongoing and the prosecution of these defendants has just begun,” said Noble County Prosecutor Jim Mowery, in a news conference Tuesday per the news release.