SWINGER’S SORDID END
Janet Chandler’s double life meant it took cops 30 years to solve her murder
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.