It has been nearly 4 decades since a 17-year-old North Webster girl was sexually assaulted, murdered and her body dumped in the Elkhart river. The investigation spanned across Kosciusko and Noble counties. Now, 37 years later, the murder of Laurel Mitchell is considered a cold case.
COLD CASE FILES: 1975 mysterious murder of Laurel Mitchell
All Sarah Knisley has of her older sister Laurel are pictures and memories.
"She was in ballet," says Knisley about her older sister. "The girl was a klutz. Couldn't walk a straight line, but she could dance."
Mixed among Knisley's old photographs are newspaper clippings detailing the last night of Laurel's young life. But, Sarah doesn't need any of it to remember.
"Some of it (feels) like yesterday," says Knisley.
It was August 6, 1975. Laurel was a senior in high school, dedicated to her church, with plans to attend business college. At 10 p.m. Laurel was getting off work at a restaurant at Epworth Forest near North Webster. Her plan was to walk just down the road to Adventureland, a local amusement park.
"She was to meet friends there, and she never made it there," says Knisley. "A friend saw her at the big stone columns and waved at her as she walked by the columns , and that is the last she was seen."
Epworth Forest Road was the last place she was ever seen. There are a couple of theories: She could have been abducted. She could have gotten in a car with someone who offered her a ride. Ultimately, police don't know. When she didn't come home that night, her parents called police.
"Because she was not the type of girl to do that," explains Knisley, "If she was going to be late, she would have called. We knew something was wrong."
Her body was found the following morning by some fishermen who were fishing along the Elkhart River near Diamond Lake in Noble County. It was found about 15 miles from where she vanished.