Fred Bandy Jr and John W. Lehman
Fred Bandy Jr and John W. Lehman have been accused of the murder of a 17-year-old North Webster girl who was found drowned in the Elkhart River in Noble County in August 1975.
Fred Bandy Jr. and John W. Lehman were arrested Monday at their respective homes in connection with the death of Laurel Jean Mitchell, whose body was discovered on August 7, 1975, at 10:30. A.M. in the water near the Mallard’s Roost public access site on C.R. 600W. Both men were preliminarily charged with murder and are being held without bond at the Noble County Jail, where they were formally booked Tuesday morning, according to Noble County Sheriff Max Weber.
Initial hearings for both are scheduled for 12:50 p.m. Wednesday in Noble Circuit Court. The arrests came as a result of tips to police and DNA evidence. According to court documents, Mitchell left work at Epworth Forrest Church on the north side of Webster Lake in Kosciusko County at 10 p.m. on August 6, 1975. Mitchell was offered a ride home from work, but she intended to walk the half mile to Adventureland amusement park. At 4:16 a.m. m. the next day, her parents reported her missing.
At approximately 10:30 a.m. m. On August 7, 1975, a father and his son discovered the body in the water near Mallard’s Roost Bridge. Authorities were notified at that time, and the father and son returned to the river and carried the woman’s body to the riverbank. An autopsy conducted later that day determined Mitchell’s cause of death to be drowning, according to court documents, and that her death “occurred rapidly and that she fought violently to survive.”
Fred Bandy Jr and John W. Lehman Age
Fred Bandy Jr 67, and John W. Lehman 67 years old.
1975 Murder case – Two men arrested after 47 years
The police received numerous tips over the years, but nothing that could lead to an arrest. Then, in 2013, Noble County Sheriff’s Department Detective Lt. Shawn Dunafin was contacted by a Port Charlotte, Florida woman who claimed to have information related to Mitchell’s murder. Dunafin interviewed the woman in Florida on June 7, 2013. The woman told Dunafin that she had lived in Noble County as a teenager and was 16 in 1975.
She alleged that she had a date with Lehman and, during the date, Lehman allegedly admitted to involvement in a crime that was engaged to his friend, Fred Bandy. On July 3, 2014, Kevin Smith, now a captain with the Indiana State Police, interviewed a man in the Ligonier Police Department who had been a student at West Noble High School in 1975. That man told Smith that was socializing with Fred Bandy Jr. and that Bandy told him that Bandy had committed the murder that had taken place at Mallard’s Roost.
On September 25, 2019, Noble County Sheriff’s Department Detective Sgt. Joe Hustell interviewed a man who allegedly said that he had attended a high school party in 1975 with Bandy and Lehman. According to court documents, “while he was at the party, a conversation arose about the murder of Laurel J. Mitchell, and Fred Bandy Jr. stated that he and John Wayne Lehman committed that crime together.” DNR evidence from Mitchell’s clothing was resubmitted to the Indiana State Police Laboratory in 2019. Bandy provided a voluntary DNA sample to police on December 5, 2022.
On January 13 of this year, the Indiana State Police Laboratory provided detectives with a certificate of analysis showing that Bandy was 13 billion times more likely to be the contributor to the DNA on Mitchell’s clothing than anyone else. another unknown person.
Bandy has a criminal record, including two separate past convictions for child sex crimes. He was convicted of solicitation of minors and contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 2001 and was sentenced to two years. He, too, had been convicted of child molestation, a Level 4 felony, in Noble County in 2016, and was sentenced to six years in prison. Bandy also has a 1995 DUI conviction on his record. Lehman appears to have no criminal record in Indiana except for the new murder charge, according to an online search of court records.
In 1975, police indicated that Mitchell had been sexually assaulted before he was murdered, according to news reports archived in the Kendallville News-Sun. Court papers filed Tuesday do not detail an alleged assault, though it does note that clothing and belongings found on Mitchell’s body had been preserved for future evidence, including “jeans that were undone and undone and were [sic] at the reversed
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