John Wayne Lehman, Laurel Jean Mitchell, Fred Bandy Jr.

John Wayne Lehman, Laurel Jean Mitchell, Fred Bandy, Jr. (Images via Indiana State Police, Noble County Jail)

Indiana State Police and Noble County prosecutors on Tuesday announced a major development in the decades-long cold case investigation into the death of Laurel Jean Mitchell, who was just 17 years old the night she was allegedly murdered in 1975.

John Wayne Lehman and Fred Bandy, Jr., both 67-year-old residents of Indiana, have been identified as the suspects responsible for Mitchell’s death, Capt. Kevin Smith announced during a press conference. Bandy is from Goshen and Lehman is from Auburn. Both are being held without bond at the Noble County Jail, authorities said.

Mitchell, a North Webster resident at the time of her death, left work at an Epworth Forest church camp snack bar at 10 p.m. on Aug. 6, 1975, and never made it home, leading her parents Richard and Wilma Mitchell to report her as a missing person at 4:16 a.m. the next morning. Hours later, a fisherman reportedly found Mitchell drowned in the Elkhart River.

Investigators believed she was a victim of foul play, citing autopsy results that said the victim battled for her life in a “violent struggle to survive,” court documents said.

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