Investigation Discovery’s ‘Betrayed: Motel Hell’ narrates the horrifying tale of a 22-year-old college student Janet Chandler and how her job as a night clerk in a local motel ultimately led to her demise in February 1979 in Holland, Michigan. It follows the story of how a documentary on Janet forced the police to re-open the cold case about two decades later, and the investigators finally were able to nab the perpetrators. So let’s find out more about the case then, shall we?
How Did Janet Chandler Die?
Janet Marie Chandler was born in Muskegon County, Michigan, on May 29, 1956, to Jim and Glenna Chandler. She was a deeply spiritual girl, a devout Christian, and a member of the local church choir. Janet embarked on evangelical missions and worked as a part-time employee in a daycare center while attending middle school. Soon, she embraced singing and enrolled in the music vocal education department of Hope College in Holland, Michigan, to get a bachelor’s degree. She planned to get a master’s degree and aspired to be a teacher in a private Christian school alongside working in opera.
At college, Janet took up a job as a night clerk at the Blue Mill Inn while moving into an off-campus apartment with her supervisor at work, Laurie Ann Swank. But Janet’s parents disapproved of her job as they thought the place was full of shady customers. They didn’t think it to be very safe, and ultimately their fear came true. Early on January 31, 1979, one of the customers called 911 to report a robbery at the Blue Mill Inn after hearing an intruder barging into Janet’s office while on the phone with her.
The police arrived at the scene to find $510 missing from the safe of the motel’s office, with witnesses further adding that they had seen Janet being frisked away in an automobile. The officers registered a case of robbery and abduction, but it soon changed to homicide. As per the show, on February 2, 1979, a snowplow driver found the naked body of Janet in the woods just south of South Haven, on Interstate 196, at around 1:30 am.
Janet’s autopsy report revealed that she had been strangled, with the cause of death being determined as asphyxiation. The medical officer also reported that her body showed signs of “sexual activity” that had occurred not long before her death. Unfortunately, the heavy snowfall had covered most of the tracks of the individual who had dumped her there.
Who Killed Janet Chandler?
In 1979, the town of Holland witnessed one of the most violent strikes by the workers of Holland’s Chemetron paint plant. In return, the owners brought in hired guards and strikebreakers from the Wackenhut security company, and most of these guards used to stay at the Blue Mill Inn. The Holland police investigators interrogated the guards staying at the hotel, interviewed several of Janet’s friends and coworkers, and combed through the neighborhoods in search of suspects and answers. They compiled notes comprising hundreds of pages, but the case turned cold for over 2 decades.
In September 2003, Associate Professor David Schock of Janet’s alma mater, Hope College, decided to make a documentary on her along with his class. The documentary, titled ‘Who Killed Janet Chandler?,’ premiered in 2004 and rekindled the investigation as a new set of investigators scoured over every document of the 2-decade old case. They questioned every suspect the investigators had interrogated in 1979, tracing back to Janet’s supervisor and roommate, Laurie Ann Swank. She claimed that Janet wasn’t as pious as she claimed to be, alleging the young woman had affairs with the guards.
The police also found the guard who had placed the call that fateful night — Robert Michael Lynch. The investigators continued to pursue the 65-year-old, who was heavily drunk all the time, and by June 2005, he started to open up. As per the show, the police learned how some of the female staff, including Laurie, despised Janet. Upon being questioned, Laurie claimed Janet had a “sexual relationship” with Arthur “Carl” Paiva, the lead Wackenhut guard.
Laurie admitted she had a crush on Carl and was jealous of Janet’s popularity and her alleged “relationship” with him. With the intention to anger Carl and “make him think less of Janet,” Laurie told him that Janet allegedly slept with other guards. Carl decided to plot revenge and planned with his colleagues to take Janet to his room near the Chemetron site and “pass [Janet] around to teach her a lesson.” Thus, on the night of January 31, 1979, the guards tricked Janet by promising to throw her a party, blindfolded her, and took her there.
On the way out, one of the guards also took the money from the safe, and Robert placed the phony 911 call. Robert did not follow the other guards but went to work the next day and then showed up at Carl’s place. As per the show, Robert narrated how the men tied a belt around Janet’s neck, yanking it as they took turns raping her. It was further reported that Laurie was also present the whole time, hurling expletives at Janet. Even Robert had taken part in the rape, as per the show.
Since first-degree murder charges had no statute of limitations and Robert seemed suicidal, riddled with guilt, he was charged and taken into custody in February 2006. In September 2006, the authorities also filed first-degree murder charges against Laurie, Carl, and three other Wackenhut guards, named Anthony Williams, Freddie Parker, and James Cleophas Nelson. As per reports, they were also present during the brutal gang rape and murder.
Where are Laurie Swank and Robert Lynch Today?
In December 2006, Robert Lynch took a plea deal in exchange for fully confessing to the crime, which also included admitting that he disposed of Janet’s body. He was charged with second-degree murder, and sentenced to 25 to 40 years in prison. As per official court records, he is presently incarcerated in a cell at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson County, Michigan. His inmate records show that his earliest release date might be June 21, 2026, while his maximum discharge date is January 25, 2030.
Laurie also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in January 2007. She agreed to become the state witness in the trials against the other alleged perpetrators in exchange for a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years. She was discharged from prison in 2016 and was living in Pennsylvania on parole. However, as of 2018, the Michigan Department of Correction records show that Laurie is no longer under supervision. From what we can tell, she has decided to keep the details about her life under wraps. The remaining four — Arthur “Carl” Paiva, Anthony Williams, Freddie Parker, and James Cleophas Nelson — were convicted of murder charges and sentenced to life without parole. Carl died in prison in 2013.
Read More: Where Are Jim and Glenna Chandler Now?