Men from Kanawha & Fayette Arrested in 1979 Murder

By: By: Mike Waterhouse
By: By: Mike Waterhouse
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A total of six people have now been arrested in connection with the 1979 murder of Janet Chandler. Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said that among those in custody is a woman who was the victim's roommate and boss at the Blue Mill Inn in Holland, Michigan, at the time of the killing.

The five newest suspects were arrested this week in West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2006--Two men in West Virginia were arrested Monday in connection with a 1979 western Michigan murder case. An arrest warrant has been issued for a third suspect in Pennsylvania.

State Police from both West Virginia and Michigan arrested 59 year-old James Nelson at his house on Davidson Avenue in Rand and 49 year-old Freddie Parker in Gauley Bridge on fugitive from justice warrants. We're told Nelson lived in Kanawha County for the last 20 years. Troopers said a February arrest in Michigan led investigators to Nelson and Parker.


West Virginia State Police told WSAZ Nelson and Parker are two of six suspects wanted for allegedly kidnapping, raping, and strangling Janet Chandler, a 23 year-old Hope College student.

Chandler disappeared January 31, 1979, while working the night shift at the desk of the Blue Mill Hotel in Holland, Michigan. Her body was discovered a day later by a snowplow driver in a wooded area.

According to WSAZ's sister station, WOOD-TV, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, court testimony indicated a group of security guards working a nearby strike told Chandler they were going to throw her a surprise birthday party. It is alleged when they picked her up, they tied and taped her up, took her to a house, took turns raping her before killing her with a belt. Chandler's body was discovered in a wooded area along I-196 near South Haven the next day.

Nelson is currently in the South Central Regional Jail in Charleston and Parker is in the Southern Regional Jail in Raleigh County.

WSAZ obtained the warrant filed in Kanawha County for Nelson's arrest. It states he's a habitual offender and was previously convicted of felonious assault and aggravated robbery in 1983 in Hamilton County, Ohio.

Laurie Swank of Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, is also charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of felony murder. It wasn't immediately known whether she has been arrested.

WOOD-TV also reported that up until Monday, Robert Lynch has been the only suspect charged in the case. He is yet to go to trial; however, authorities in Michigan have long said others were involved.

A news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Holland Police Department. Stay tuned to WSAZ and WSAZ.COM for the latest information.

Interest in the cold case was renewed when a Hope College class produced a documentary about it that aired on a Grand Rapids, Michigan, television station two years ago.

WSAZ NewsChannel 3 645 Fifth Avenue Huntington, WV 25701 304-697-4780 WSAZ Charleston 111 Columbia Avenue Charleston, WV 25302 304-344-3521
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