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Janet Chandler: A Case Remained Unsolved For 25-Years

Janet Chandler, a 22-year-old woman, was discovered dead on Feb. 1, 1979. A snowplow driver discovered her naked body buried in the snow near a wooded region. She was completely buried in the snow except for her arm, which jutted out of the snow disturbingly.

Janet had been raped, anally and vaginally. Her reason for demise was strangulation, and there were grazes over her wrists which implied that she’d been handcuffed for a lengthy period. Adhesive consistent with duct tape was discovered all over her face, indicating that she’d been gagged and blindfolded.

Janet At The Time Of Murder

At the time of her killing, Janet had been residing in Ottawa County, MI. Specifically, she was residing in the city of Holland, which at the time was undergoing some unrest. A company called Chemetron had a paint plant in Holland, but the employees had gone on strike and the circumstance was getting awful. Chemetron hired a security company called Wackenhut to give additional security during the strike.

Wackenhut brought in security personnel from throughout the country to guard the Chemetron plant during the strike. Most of that staff ended up being housed at the Blue Mill Inn, where Janet Chandler worked as a night clerk. Around 80 security guards from Wackenhut were residing at the Blue Mill Inn at the time that Janet was working there.

r/TrueCrime – Janet Chandler, 22-years-old. Michigan woman is murdered at a “surprise party” held for her by security guards, where she is raped and tormented to death. After a few days, she is discovered buried in a snowbank by a snowplow driver. 25 years later, 6 people are caught and charged for her …

Janet herself resided in an apartment with Laurie Swank, her boss at the Blue Mill Inn. Janet deemed Laurie to be her best friend.

Gang Rape, Murder and Justice in a Small Town | Glamour
Pic: Glamour

The Wackenhut guards were realized as rough guys that loved to party, and it was familiar for motel staff to hook up with them. Both Janet Chandler and Laurie Swank indulged in several affairs with various guards. Swank once had to reprimand Janet for having sex in a motel room at the Blue Mill Inn which was meant to be a display suite.

Janet was studying music at Hope College, a private Christian liberal arts school in Holland, Michigan. Janet came from a conservative Christian family, and she was devoutly religious. Before shifting into her apartment, she’d lived a very sheltered life. For instance, her parents would not let her sleep over at any friend’s home if the friend’s parents even drank alcohol.

Her teachers at Hope College characterized her as an emotionally sensitive person who would frequently burst into tears if she was criticized. Janet appeared too sheltered for her good.

Janet primarily inherited her parent’s religious views, and her journals are filled with musings of a religious character. For instance, the last journal entry before her casualty comprised the question: “When was Paul saved? When did the Lord speak to him to go? Or when he obeyed God and went?”

Janet had her first sexual encounter when she was 17 with a middle-aged man who was much older than her. Twice a week, she’d sneak him into her parent’s home to have sex. The man later conveyed an excuse over this relationship, saying that he’d taken benefit of her naivety and seduced her. Still, the occurrence was a sort of sexual awakening for Janet; she figured that God wouldn’t send her to Hell just for having some fun sometimes.

One night, Janet was doing her night job at the Blue Inn when abruptly she was met by a maid who accused Janet of sleeping with the maid’s boyfriend, one of the Wackenhut security guards. Janet had called his room, telling him to come to the front desk right away. When he got there, he was shocked to find Janet there waiting for him, totally naked. Janet then escorted him to a vacant room where the two had sex.

Needless to say, the maid wasn’t pleased when she found out about this little stunt. When she angrily met Janet, the ensuing controversy could be heard throughout the hotel as the two women shouted at each other.

This occurrence with the maid was the ultimate straw for Arthur Paiva, the lead guard from Wackenhut. Paiva was annoyed that Janet kept having so many romantic affairs with his security staff. This was somewhat hypocritical of him since he’d also had sex with Janet at least once. He became even angrier with Janet after Laurie Swank, Janet’s boss and roommate, took it upon herself to notify him of Janet’s most recent escapades.

Laurie was jealous of Janet’s numerous romantic flings with the many guards, basically just because Janet was more famous. Or something like that; I really can’t figure out why exactly they all decided that Janet needed to be demolished.

Perhaps it was jealousy or perhaps it was because Janet was too religious for their liking. But whatever the exact intention, Laurie and the others formulated a hatred towards Janet and they wanted Janet to be “taken down a few notches.”

Paiva convinced Laurie that he had a strategy to deal with Janet; he told Swank that he and a few other guards were scheduling a “surprise party” for Janet. They were going to embarrass Janet for acting like a whore. Paiva told her that the guards were going to pass Janet around to “teach her a lesson.”

The horrible plan was put into action during the winter of 1979. Janet was working her night job at the front desk of the Blue Mill Inn, as usual. But on that night, she was toured by Robert Lynch, a security guard from Wackenhut, who told her that they were throwing a surprise party in her honor. He bandaged gauze over her eyes and then wrapped her eyes with duct tape.

She did not resist; she thought that she was going to a party and that people were doing something delightful for her. Janet was taken to a guest house near the Chemetron plant. The guest house was where Arthur Pavia resided; he didn’t live at the Blue Mill Inn with the other guards.

Parents of Janet Chandler

As soon as Robert Lynch dropped Janet off at the house, she was forcibly stripped, gagged, and handcuffed. For the next 17 hours, Janet would be humiliated, raped, and tormented until she was deceased. Her tormentors comprised at least 10 men and about half as many women.

At first, it appeared like the goal was only to humiliate Janet, albeit in an extremely brutal manner. She was paraded throughout the house while she was blindfolded, gagged, handcuffed, and completely naked. All the while, the others got drunk and partied around her. They annoyed Janet and insulted her about the ordeal, telling her that she was getting what she deserved.

A belt was fastened around her neck in such a manner that pulling on the end of it would result in the belt constricting around Janet’s neck. This was used as a way to control Janet; whenever she would attempt to resist or fight back in any way, the end of the belt would be pulled to prohibit her breathing.

After they were done parading her around, Janet was tied down to a bed. That is when the cruelty truly started. One by one, all of the men at the party took turns beating and raping Janet while she was tied down to the bed and handcuffed. While she was being raped, the others would verbally abuse her and applaud the rapists. They would shout things like “you’re going too easy on her” or “fuck her to death.”

Laurie was among those in the “cheering section.” She named Janet a bitch and shouted at her that she deserved everything that was occurring. Cheryl Ruiz, the maid who’d been furious at Janet before the killing, was also present.

The Blue Mill Inn

While this was going on, Arthur Paiva utilized a camera to take images while the rapes were occurring. These images would be his insurance policy; he wanted to be convinced that nobody who was at the party would be able to turn on the others without involving themselves.

The abuse of Janet Chandler would proceed without respite until she was dead. Robert Lynch was the one who ultimately murdered Janet. He was much older than all the others; he was 39 at the time of the killing whereas the others were all in their early twenties. While he was raping Janet, he’d grabbed hold of the belt around her neck and pulled it so rigid that it murdered her through strangulation.

When the others acknowledged that Janet was deceased, they were alarmed. Paiva shouted out: “This party is fucking over!” The participants then hurried to clean up the house and discover a way to dispose of her corpse. Eventually, Janet was tossed into a snowbank 40 miles away from the guest house; that is where she was finally found out.

Paiva made certain to tell every single individual present that he had pictures of them being involved, so nobody could tell on the others without involving themselves. And for over 20 years, that was sufficient to prevent anybody from talking.

After the savage killing of Janet Chandler, the numerous participants completely moved on with their lives, although they all lived in anxiety that one day the world would find out what they’d done to Janet.

The film students helped uncover the truth of what occurred to Janet.

After attending Janet’s funeral, Laurie Swank shifted to Pennsylvania where she worked as a nursing assistant. Robert Lynch got married and opened up a cosmetology school with his wife, with whom he had two children. The Wackenhut security guards simply went home when the Chemetron strike was over, distributing throughout the country. And so virtually, they all got away with it. For over 20 years, nobody was charged for the casualty of Janet Chandler. And if not for some meddling kids at Hope College, they may never have been caught.

In 2003, a group of film students at Hope College, the Christian liberal arts school where Janet Chandler had been studying music, decided that they would give it their best shot. David Schock, the professor governing the project, urged them that it wasn’t realistic for them to think that they could unravel the mystery. Rather, the goal of the project was to revive the remembrance of Janet Chandler in hopes of getting people talking again.

The group of film students made a documentary about the killing of Janet Chandler, simply named “Who Killed Janet Chandler?” The film premiered in 2004 and had a limited run in regional theatres. The documentary succeeded in reviving the remembrance of Janet Chandler and it got law enforcement to reopen the case. The film would succeed even beyond the most positive hopes of its creators; within 3 years, arrests would be made.

While making the film, the students tried to track down everybody who knew Chandler to talk to them. They questioned her parents, her teachers, and numerous of the cops who’d been involved in the original investigation. Almost all the cops interviewed told that they were haunted by the unsolved killing and that it was the biggest sorrow of their lives that they weren’t able to solve one of the people they wanted to interview for the documentary was Laurie Swank, Chandler’s roommate. They kept inquiring around, but nobody could appear to know what had occurred to her. It took them a long time, but finally, they did discover her in Pennsylvania. When Swank spoke to the film students, she warmly described Janet as “musical and fun-loving.”

Cheryl Ruiz

When police reopened the case in 2004, they made it a priority to re-interview numerous of the Wackenhut guards, even though most of them no longer resided in Michigan. One of the people they quizzed was Robert Lynch. By this point, he was 65 years old and he had 2 children of his own, including a 22-year-old daughter.

Outwardly, Robert seemed to be a normal 65-year-old man, except for his severe alcoholism. Robert drank like crazy whenever he could as if he was desperately attempting to forget something. The investigators felt that Robert knew more than he was saying, so they kept coming back to him. After numerous visits, he eventually started to crack and open up about what occurred.

When he first began opening up, he told investigators that right before the killing, Janet had been at a party that “went haywire.” This instantly caught the attention of investigators; they’d been quizzing people for over a year since the investigation was reopened and this was the first time they’d ever listened to anyone mention a party. But when they attempted to get more information, Robert clammed up again; he told that he’d only heard about the party second hand.

Still, they kept coming back to him. The big breakthrough came when the investigators pulled out a copy of the documentary “Who Killed Janet Chandler?” and had him watch it with them. As they watched the movie together, Robert began crying. He told that he regretted his whole life.

He started telling investigators everything that he remembered, this time honestly, and he confessed that he and numerous other security guards had raped and killed Janet at a surprise party. He contended that murdering her wasn’t intentional, but he also realized that it doesn’t matter if it was intentional or not.

Gange Rape

Robert gave up the names of the others who’d been involved: Arthur Paiva, Freddie Parker, Anthony Williams, and James Nelson. But detectives were most shocked to hear that Laurie Swank had been there and she’d applauded on the gang-rape as it was occurring. When detectives met Laurie Swank with this new data, she eventually broke and confessed that she’d been involved in the killing. Eventually, Swank agreed to testify against the others in exchange for being authorized to plead guilty to 2nd-degree murder.

But maybe most importantly, when police scoured Paiva’s house, they were able to discover the rape pictures that he’d used to blackmail the others into silence for some many years. The trial started in 2007. Paiva, Parker, Williams, and Nelson were all tried together. Robert Lynch and Laurie Swank testified against all four of them.

Another individual who testified at the trial was Cheryl Ruiz, the hotel maid who’d been embarrassed with Janet before the killing. Janet had slept with Cheryl’s boyfriend and so she was pleased, at first, to see that Janet was eventually getting punished for her constant sleeping around. Nonetheless, she later testified that she’d no idea that it was going to go so far or that Janet would end up dead.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this rough. I didn’t think they were going to go to this extreme,” Ruiz testified.

Ruiz was told that if she ever told anybody about what she saw that night, then she’d end up just like Janet Chandler. And so for nearly 30 years, she said nothing. She did end up notifying her parents about what occurred, but they told her to stay out of it, saying that she could be charged if anybody ever found out what occurred. It wasn’t until Arthur Paiva was eventually put on trial in 2007 that Ruiz broke her silence.

Trial

During the trial, Ruiz also contended that the defendants (Paiva, Parker, Williams, and Nelson) would make surprise visits to her home for years after the killing, to terrorize her and remind her that if she ever spoke up about what occurred at the party, she’d end up just like Janet.

Paiva was discovered guilty of 1st-degree murder. The others were found guilty of 2nd-degree murder. All four were convicted to life in jail without parole. After the convictions, the prosecution said that they think that others were also involved in the casualty of Janet Chandler, but it is uncertain that any more arrests will be made.

This case was among with most costly in Michigan history, amounting to close to $2 million to investigate and prosecute.

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