Janet Chan­dler’s dou­ble life meant it took cops 30 years to solve her mur­der

24 Hours Vancouver - - NEWS - BRAD HUNTER

In dusty rooms tucked away in cop shops across the con­ti­nent, yel­low­ing files cry out for at­ten­tion.

These are the thou­sands of cold cases wait­ing for a glim­mer of light to bring the dead back to life.

Dur­ing the past week, de­tec­tives have made ar­rests in homi­cides that are 40, 30 and 20 years old.

If you have mur­dered some­one, know this, the case is not closed.

For more than 30 years the small town of Hol­land, Michi­gan was haunted by the bru­tal slay­ing of a young ho­tel clerk.

The body of Janet Chan­dler, 22, a mu­sic stu­dent from a con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian fam­ily was dis­cov­ered naked by a snow­plow driver on Feb. 1, 1979.

Chan­dler — who sang in the choir and worked as a night clerk at the Blue Mill

Inn — had been re­ported miss­ing the day be­fore.

She had been raped and stran­gled.

De­tec­tives hit the ground run­ning, in­ter­view­ing hun­dreds of friends, neigh­bors, ac­quain­tances, co-work­ers and guests at the Inn.

But with more than 1,000 pages of case notes, they soon hit a dead end and the Janet Chan­dler mur­der went ice cold — just like the evening she was found.

“She was easy­go­ing and happy-go-lucky. And she lived a shel­tered life­style,” her mother Glenna told the Hol­land Sen­tinel.

“We are Chris­tians, and she was brought up in the church. And all her friends were friends from church ... Ev­ery time her girl­friend would get mar­ried, we’d go to the wed­ding. It was hard.”

In 1979, Hol­land was be­ing ripped apart by a bru­tal strike at the Chemtron paint plant.

On one side, the

Team­sters and on the other the Wack­en­hut Se­cu­rity Com­pany, who brought in guards and strike­break­ers.

Ground zero for the strike­break­ers and se­cu­rity was the Blue Mill Inn—about 80 men and women in all.

A film class at Muskegon Com­mu­nity Col­lege de­cided to make a doc­u­men­tary about the un­solved mur­der.

What the young film­mak­ers dis­cov­ered was a sor­did world that clean-liv­ing Chris­tian girl Janet fell into — and em­braced.

En­ter Lau­rie Ann Swank, who was 21 at the time and Janet’s boss at the Blue Mill.

Af­ter the sick­en­ing mur­der, she left town and had fallen off the face of the earth.

Michi­gan State Po­lice Det. David VanLopik and three other de­tec­tives be­gan go­ing over the case line by line, de­ter­mined to get jus­tice for Janet.

“There was the Janet Chan­dler that her par­ents knew, and the one who was away from their in­flu­ence,” VanLopik said.

De­tec­tives fi­nally found the elu­sive Lau­rie Ann Swank in Penn­syl­va­nia where she was work­ing as a nurs­ing as­sis­tant.

When they flashed a lon­gago photo of Janet and the hard-par­ty­ing se­cu­rity guards, Swank be­came quiet.

It was a man named Robert Michael Lynch who broke things open.

Lynch wasn’t a part of the party crowd. He was older and since that day had kept his nose clean de­spite a se­ri­ous drink­ing prob­lem.

In June 2005, Lynch dropped a bomb­shell: yes, he and Janet had been sex­u­ally in­volved. And there was some­thing else: on the night of the mur­der she was at a party with other guards and “things went hay­wire.”

Later, Lynch ad­mit­ted he “re­gret­ted his whole life.”

De­tec­tives slipped the stu­dents’ doc­u­men­tary — Who Killed Janet Chan­dler — into a DVD ma­chine.

VanLopik said to the trou­bled killer: “You have a daugh­ter Janet’s age. If she were killed, wouldn’t you want to know what hap­pened to her?”

Lynch broke and re­vealed what he knew about the mur­der of Janet Chan­dler.

The Blue Mill, Lynch told cops, was a ver­i­ta­ble swinger’s club —and Janet was at the cen­tre of it.

At one point, Janet called the guard’s room and asked him to come to the front desk. When he re­sponded, she was wait­ing in the ad­ja­cent show­room, naked ex­cept for a pair of cow­boy boots.

Lau­rie Swank wanted her dead. A pal told her that Janet had had sex with the main guard, Arthur “Carl” Paiva, Swank’s boyfriend.

And so the evil web was spun that would end with a young woman mur­dered.

They would lure Janet to a sur­prise party where she was go­ing to be “gang­banged,” and “passed around to teach her a les­son.”

Lynch told cops he was asked to lure the pretty brunette to the party. They taped gauze over her eyes. A party game, she thought.

In­stead, she was sex­u­ally rav­aged.

When he fin­ished work he went by the house were Janet Chan­dler was be­ing “hon­oured.”

She was naked on a couch, glassy eyed, maybe drugged. Janet had a belt around her neck as mu­sic played and men and women min­gled.

Janet was again thrown onto a bed where a line of men took turns hav­ing sex with her.

Af­ter al­most 30 years, cops had Janet Chan­dler’s killers. Lynch pleaded guilty to se­cond-de­gree mur­der and was given 25-40 years in prison.

Lau­rie Swank broke down too and con­fessed her vile deeds all those years ear­lier. She pleaded guilty to sec­ond­de­gree mur­der and re­ceived 10 to 20 years in prison.

Four guards were found guilty of mur­der. Case closed.

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