Cold Case concludes in Berrien
Published 7:22 pm Thursday, February 9, 2006
By By RYAN STEWART / Niles Daily Star
HARBERT - A 66-year-old Harbert (near Three Oaks) resident, Robert Michael Lynch, was charged Wednesday with the murder of Hope College student Janet Chandler back in 1979.
Lynch was arrested on Wednesday morning as a result of new evidence that had been found by a joint cold-case investigative team from the Holland Police Department and the Michigan State Police. The cold-case team was formed in April of 2004 after interest in the case was renewed by a Hope College professor's documentary class that had made an 83-minute film about the murder and its unsolved status.
Michigan Attorney General, Mike Cox, along with the Ottawa County Prosecutor, Holland Police Chief and Michigan State Police announced the arrest. Lynch was officially charged with two counts of felony murder - one during kidnapping and the other during a sexual assault - and a single count of premeditated murder. If convicted, Lynch faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The 23-year old Chandler disappeared while working the night shift at the desk of the Blue Mill Inn in Holland on Jan. 31, 1979. She was discovered missing when Holland Police responded to a robbery call from the Blue Mill Inn. A snowplow driver discovered Chandler's body nearly 24 hours later, adjacent to a turn-around on I-196.
It is alleged that at the time of Chandler's murder, Lynch was employed as a security guard on assignment at a local labor strike. Lynch was temporarily living at the Blue Mill Inn along with many other fellow guards.
Some residents who live near Lynch were shocked by the news. One woman in the neighborhood, who wished to remain anonymous, had this to say upon hearing the news of the arrest. “Shocked, shocked, shocked! I just know him from being in the neighborhood, but he seemed like a wonderful guy.” It is unknown at this time how long Lynch has lived in his Harbert home, but this woman was quite sure that he'd lived there for at least 10 years. She thinks he's in the landscaping business.
Another neighbor, Mike Mars, 15, said that even though he'd never actually met Lynch, “From what I know, he was an all-around good guy. I would not have expected something like this. I'd see him walk by or drive by and we'd wave at one another.”
A Chikaming Township Police Officer said he hadn't heard anything about the subject. Lynch's house is in Chikaming Township. A Three Oaks City Police Officer, which is the closest town with its own police department, said that he was just hearing about through the press releases.
Michigan State Police Major Barry Getzen said, “Task force detectives have painstakingly re-interviewed witnesses and followed new leads over the past two years …. We are mindful of the emotional impact this announcement has on Janet's family and hope this prosecution brings them long overdue closure.”
This report was made with contributions from The Holland Sentinel writers Richard Harrold and Patrick Revere.