ALBION, Ind. (WANE) The two men accused of abducting a Kosciusko County teen, and then drowning her in Noble County back in 1975 pleaded not guilty during their initial court appearance Wednesday.
Fred Bandy Jr., and John Wayne Lehman, both 67, were arrested Monday and taken into custody for the killing of Laurel Jean Mitchell, a 17-year-old North Webster girl. Both men have been charged with murder, and if convicted they could both face life sentences.
On Aug. 6, 1975, Mitchell disappeared, and her body was found the next day in the Elkhart River by some fishermen. An autopsy showed that she had drowned, but had struggled and her death was ruled a homicide. She had left work and was walking to meet up with friends when she was abducted and later killed according to authorities.
Mitchell’s sister Sarah Knisley was in court on Wednesday. She told WANE 15 that Bandy and Lehman didn’t look like what she had pictured in her head for nearly half a century.
“I was surprised at their appearance. They’ve always been the Boogeyman in my mind, and they don’t look anything like that – nothing I should be afraid of anymore. I don’t know, just pretty pitiful looking men,” Knisley said.
She added that she hopes both men rot in jail, but at the same time wonders why her sister had to die. That’s what she would ask both Bandy and Lehman if she could talk to them.
“I want to know why you killed her because other people the one man assaulted, nobody else died. Why did you kill her? And, that’s about what I’ve always wanted to know is why,” Knisley said. “I just always wonder, you know, like how she would’ve turned out. She missed prom. She missed graduation. She missed getting married and having kids, and, and all that stuff and it’s just such a waste.”
Knisley said she plans to be at every court appearance the two make if she’s able.
Authorities held a press conference Tuesday to announce the arrests and at the time Noble County Prosecutor Jim Mowery indicated that that the crime investigation is still ongoing.
Bandy and Lehman have pretrial conferences set for April 24, according to online court records.