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Can New Technology Provide Insights in North Webster's Cold Case? –

Kevin of the Indiana State Police, the lead investigator in Mitchell’s case, with Mitchell’s sister Sarah Naisley at a pillar near the entrance to Epworth Woods where Mitchell was last seen alive on July 27, 2022. Captain Smith. InkFreeNews Photo credit: Lasca Randels

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North Webster — Will advances in crime-solving technology help solve the unsolved 1975 North Webster teenage murder?

Laurel Jean Mitchell

On August 6, 1975, 17-year-old Laurel Jean Mitchell of North Webster left her work shift to visit a friend. That was the last time I saw her alive.

Mitchell’s body was found the next morning in the Elkhart River in Noble County by fishermen.

Mitchell’s murder is officially an unsolved case, but there remains hope that the killer can still be identified.

Law enforcement agencies collect and store important items from crime scenes.

Indiana State Police Capt. Kevin Smith, the lead investigator on the case, said some of these items are likely to be sent soon for advanced DNA testing using the latest technology. T. Testing is done by a private laboratory.

In recent years, advances have been made in unsolved cases with new technologies such as genealogy, which allows the DNA profiles of suspects or victims to be put into public databases, allowing the family tree to be reverse engineered. This allows you to explore multiple branches of your family tree to identify viable suspects in unsolved cases.

Laurel Jean Mitchell in infancy. Photo courtesy of Sarah Knisley

Another recent advancement that is taking into account the resolution of open cases is the use of touch DNA samples. This method requires trace amounts of DNA, such as the perpetrator’s skin cells, which may be left on objects at the crime scene.

A breakthrough technology that enables accurate genotyping from rootless hair is another technology currently available.

Until 2019, forensic scientists could only extract DNA from hairs found at crime scenes if the roots of the hairs were attached. Unfortunately, most hairs do not have roots.

This breakthrough in DNA extraction from rootless hair would be very useful in solving crimes.

Resolving cold cases often requires reviewing evidence from files and the efforts of experienced investigators, which is time consuming and labor intensive.

Smith has experience with unsolved cases. In October 2015, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts to investigate his 1989 unsolved murder, in which a suspect was eventually found in Bangladesh and arrested in India.

In October 2018, Smith received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in the April Tinsley murder of 1988, which was solved in July 2018, 30 years after the crime was committed.

From the left, Laurel, her sister Sarah, and the girl next door. Photo courtesy of Sarah Knisley

“I don’t let things go easy,” Smith said. “I have worked on many open cases in my career so far and have had some success. I will not let this go.”

Mitchell’s sister, Sarah Niseley of Warsaw, is still waiting for answers after 47 years.

“I just want to ask them why. Why did you kill her?” said Knisley. “I really trust Kevin (Smith).”

Nicely, who was 12 at the time, remembered starting August 6, 1975 as a typical day for the two sisters to do their morning chores before Mitchell left for work.

Preparing to start his senior year of high school, Mitchell was hired at the Cokesbury Inn in the Epworth Forest area on the shores of Lake Webster.

Around 10:15 pm she quit her job and started walking down Epworth Forest Road. She planned to head to Adventureland, a once-popular amusement park, to meet her friends there. It is unknown whether she arrived there, as her friend she was supposed to meet ended up going to the county fair in her place.

When Mitchell did not return home by her midnight curfew, her family contacted the police.

A young Laurel Jean Mitchell. Photo courtesy of Sarah Knisley

According to Smith, Mitchell is believed to have never made it to Adventureland.

“Obviously something happened on the way there,” he said.

Mitchell’s last sighting was on a pillar near the entrance to Epworth Woods.

In 1975, Smith said, there was only one house north of Epworth Forest Road.

“There were some cottages out on the highway, but very few out of the Epworth Forest area,” says Smith. “That last half mile was pretty bleak at the time.”

The location of Mitchell’s abduction and the discovery of her body in the Elkhart River, about 15 miles from Epworth Woods, seem to indicate that her killers were familiar with the area. is.

Smith described both areas as “off the beaten path”.

The $5,000 reward is still being offered. If you have information, please call the Indiana State Police Post in Fort Wayne at (260)-432-8661 and ask for Smith or email. [email protected]

This is the former site of the Cokesbury Inn where Mitchell was employed. Now known as The Beach House. InkFreeNews Photo credit: Lasca Randels

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