Laurel Jean Mitchel Wiki – Laurel Jean Mitchel Biography
Laurel Jean Mitchell was found dead after she left a church camp to meet friends and never made it. Her case had remained unsolved until DNA testing revealed a match. On the evening of August 6, 1975, Laurel Jean Mitchell left Epworth Forest Church Camp in North Webster, Indiana, where she worked at the snack bar, to meet friends at a nearby amusement park.
She never made it. Ms. Mitchell’s body would be found the next day in a nearby river. Next to her was a class ring with the initials “LJM”. she was 17 The initial autopsy report ruled the cause of death in the homicide to be drowning and indicated that her “death occurred rapidly,” according to a police affidavit filed in Noble County Circuit Court. He said that “she put up a violent fight to survive.”
Laurel Jean Mitchel Age
Laurel Jean Mitchel was 17 years old.
Laurel Jean Mitchel Cause of Death
For decades, the police investigated the murder but were unable to solve it. Then, on Monday, Indiana State Police arrested two men who had been among the suspects for several years and who live a short drive from the crime scene. The men, Fred Bandy Jr. of Goshen, Ind., and John Wayne Lehman. , of Auburn, Ind., both 67, were charged with first-degree murder in the case.
They appeared in Noble County Court on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty. After nearly 50 years and technological advances, DNA evidence provided the missing pieces of the puzzle to link the two men to the victim, authorities said.
tate police Capt. Kevin Smith said at a news conference Tuesday that “science finally gave us the evidence we needed” and credited the Indiana State Police Laboratory Division for helping with the investigation. case. “We just couldn’t figure this out. case without them, ”he said.
Captain Smith, who had been working on the cold case for 20 years, said the investigation into Ms Mitchell’s murder had followed a similar pattern to other similar cases: “Witnesses die, memories fade, all those obstacles make it very difficult,” he said.
he said, “especially when she goes back that far.” For five decades, investigators from various state and local agencies tried to solve her murder, but to no avail, and “Laurel’s family would continue to suffer without answers,” Captain Smith said. .
Ms. Mitchell’s younger sister, Sarah Knisely, was 12 years old when she was killed. In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Knisely described her childhood in North Webster as typical before horror visited her family. “It was just a very small, quiet town. We feel safe,” she said. “We would go and go how we wanted in the summer and the parents did not care about us.”
But when Mrs Mitchell failed to return home by curfew that night in August 1975, Mrs Knisely’s family knew something was wrong, prompting an extensive search by police, family and friends. . The next day, a family friend picked Mrs. Knisely up early from softball practice. They came home to a driveway lined with police cars.
“He was a very good person. It’s like, oh my gosh, you picked someone really good to do this too, someone who could have done a lot of good in this world,” said Knisely, 60. “I am very happy that they have finally been arrested and I am very grateful to the people who came forward.”
All clothing and belongings found on Ms. Mitchell’s body were preserved for DNA testing, including shoes, a sweatshirt, a bra, underwear and jeans, according to the affidavit. Immediate investigation by the Indiana State Police was able to determine that on the night of her disappearance Ms.
Mitchell was supposed to be meeting friends at Adventureland, which was on the north side of North Webster, about a half-mile walk from the church camp. . At the time, police interviewed a North Webster resident who reported that “what he thought sounded like someone banging on the trunk” of a car, possibly an Oldsmobile; another resident told investigators that she had heard various voices say “let’s get her” or “let’s get her.”
But the investigation progressed in fits and starts. From 2013 to 2019, several witnesses came forward and told police cases, right after her murder, in which either Mr. Lehman or Mr. Bandy admitted to killing Ms. Mitchell. In one such case, a woman who had an appointment with Lehman said she discussed “his involvement of hers in a crime” with Bandy and offered details that matched “the anatomical findings” in the autopsy report, the complaint says.
sworn declaration. In 2019, Captain Smith again sent some of Ms. Mitchell’s clothing to the state lab for DNA testing. The findings produced a male DNA profile that was found on Ms. Mitchell’s clothing. In addition to Bandy and Lehman, the investigation generated three other possible suspects, according to the affidavit, but those three additional suspects were eliminated as possible contributors to DNA obtained from her clothing.
Late last year, the Indiana State Police obtained a DNA sample from Mr. Bandy, according to the affidavit. On January 13, the state laboratory found that Mr. Bandy was more likely to be the contributor to the DNA found on Ms. Mitchell’s clothing than anyone else. There was no mention of a DNA match to Mr. Lehman in the affidavit.
Police records also showed that Mr. Bandy was driving a 1971 Oldsmobile at the time of Ms. Mitchell’s murder. Mr. Bandy has a history of child abuse. 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.
While the Indiana State Police declined to comment on the techniques used to solve Ms. Mitchell’s murder, Ashley Hall, director of the graduate forensic science program at the University of California, Davis, said the method appeared to be a standard genetic identification technology used in crime labs called S.T.R., or short tandem repeat.
“Technology is developing to become more and more sensitive, it is developing to collect smaller and smaller amounts of DNA,” Dr. Hall said. “We can collect much more DNA than we used to.” Ms Mitchell’s case is a “good example” of the power and evolution of DNA testing to aid criminal investigations, Dr Hall said. “We’re not done with our work until every family, every victim, has an answer, and the fact that we can go back to cases that are so old, that’s where we should be going,” she said.
The detective work to solve the case was relentless, authorities and the family said. Ms. Knisely pointed out how Captain Smith had kept “big books” detailing the names and addresses of everyone the authorities had interviewed over the years. “There were over 1,000 names on there,” she said.
When Captain Smith called Mrs. Knisely and her brother, Bruce Mitchell, to inform them that two men had been arrested for the murder of her sister, he was shocked, but most of all he wished that her parents had been alive to see it. “It’s been 47 years,” he said, “but right now it seems like yesterday.”
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