HOLLAND, Mich. – A jury convicted four men Thursday of kidnapping a college student from her job nearly 30 years ago, then raping and killing her, in a case that was revived after a documentary film about it.
Janet Chandler, 22, was abducted from the Blue Mill Inn in Holland, where she worked as a desk clerk, and taken to a home where she was gang-raped before being strangled, prosecutors said.
A snowplow driver discovered the body of the Hope College student a day later about 35 miles south of the west Michigan city.
Convicted of kidnapping, rape and murder were James Cleophas "Bubba" Nelson, now 60, of Rand, W.Va.; Arthur Carlton Paiva, 55, of Muskegon; Freddie Bas Parker, 50, of Powellton, W.Va.; and Anthony Eugene Robert Williams, 56, of Boscobel, Wis. Sentencing was set for December.
First-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life without parole.
"The case is about never giving up," state Attorney General Mike Cox said in a news release. "Janet Chandler's tragic death happened long ago, and unfortunately the trail went cold."
Two other people earlier pleaded guilty to reduced charges of second-degree murder and are serving prison terms: Laurie Ann Swank, 49, of Nescopeck, Pa., who also worked at the hotel and was the victim's supervisor; and Robert Michael Lynch, 67, of Three Oaks.
The male defendants worked as security guards brought in to patrol a labor strike and were staying at the hotel, where some developed intimate relationships with Chandler and Swank, according to testimony.
Interest in the decades-old case was revived after a Hope class produced a documentary film about it that aired in 2004 on public television.
The new evidence breathed new life into the case, Cox said.
"In the end, this incredible team of police and prosecutors has now closed the book on this horrific crime [and] has brought closure for Janet's parents and family," he said.