City police make arrest in '93 slaying Victim's Maine mother has been on crusade to have killer caught

She'll walk in final steps

Authorities got tip from suspect himself, a parolee, police say

November 19, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A Maine woman who has been continually haunted by her son's unsolved slaying in Baltimore is arriving in town today to hear the news that police may finally have solved the 3-year-old crime.

Then she will walk in her son's final footsteps to the spot on a dark, cold East Baltimore street where robbers shot him in the face -- a spot where she says her son's soul is lingering and waiting for justice.

"I suppose I should feel relieved that there's been an arrest, but I don't," Yong Cha Jones said. "It's little comfort to me to hear that human garbage took my beautiful son's life. But maybe his soul can stop wandering."

On Friday, city police arrested a parolee, James Wilbur Langhorne, 23, of Woodlawn and charged him with first-degree murder in the death of Laurence A. Jones Jr., 24. The former Bangor resident was slain in the 1400 block of Bank St., at the edge of Fells Point and Little Italy, after two men accosted him in a mugging.

Frustrated for three years by lack of evidence, detectives got the key tip in the case from Langhorne himself, police said. While serving time in prison on a probation violation, he described the killing to a correctional official with whom he had developed a friendship, according to a source close to the investigation.

"He did say something to someone. The case was solved based on a disclosure from the suspect," said Agent Ragina L. Cooper, a city police spokeswoman. She said police are still investigating leads in the identity of the second man involved in the crime.

The killing, during Baltimore's most murderous year in history, underscored the viciousness of robbers toward people unfortunate enough to wander into the wrong neighborhood. Laurence Jones had just moved to Baltimore and seemingly didn't realize he had chosen an apartment in a crime-troubled area where a rash of street robberies was occurring.

His mother, whose Korean heritage teaches that a murder victim cannot rest until the killer is caught, has been on an obsessive crusade to catch the killer.

She has made hundreds of phone calls to police, politicians and journalists, written a letter to President Clinton, and presented a petition signed by 1,651 Maine residents requesting that police keep the unsolved case file open.

"From Nov. 20, 1993 on, our world and family was torn apart," Yong Jones wrote in a memorial to her late husband, Laurence A. Jones Sr., that was published in the Bangor Daily News. The elder Laurence Jones died "of a broken heart," overwrought with pain over his only son's unresolved slaying, Yong Jones wrote.

A graduate of the University of Maine at Orono, Laurence Jones had moved to Baltimore hoping to enroll in the Johns Hopkins University's graduate psychology program.

He had been drinking at several Fells Point bars and was walking to his Bank Street apartment when muggers approached him about 3 a.m. Nov. 20, 1993. They shot him and took his gold ring and wallet, neither of which has been recovered.

Witnesses identified Langhorne from a photo lineup, court charging papers said. The witnesses haven't been publicly named "for fear of retaliation," the court documents state.

Langhorne was ordered held without bail yesterday. Meanwhile, everyone involved with the case seems to be breathing a sigh of relief.

"I'm glad for her that there's some closure in sight," said former Baltimore homicide Detective Donald K. Ossmus, who worked the case before retiring two years ago.

Once, Yong Jones wrote to Baltimore County police, where Ossmus now works, and asked supervisors to send him back to help with the city police investigation.

"She's never going to have closure until this case is put to rest," Ossmus said. "She felt his soul would always wander. Of all the cases I worked, that's something I'll never get out of my mind."

The news of a break in the case comes just before the third-year anniversary of Laurence Jones Jr.'s death -- tomorrow at 3 a.m. -- a date that Yong Jones planned to mark with a tour of her son's final day.

She will be met on arrival in Baltimore by members of the city Police Department whom she had pleaded with and prodded so relentlessly to solve her son's killing. They've offered her rides to where she wants to go, she said.

Among the stops will be Bohager's, the last bar her son visited before the killing. She will go at 3 a.m. to the site where the slaying occurred exactly three years earlier.

"I have to relive that last day. I have to walk in his footsteps, to be at the same place where my son lost his life," Yong Jones said. The police have offered to provide her an escort for her safety, she said.

Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a Maryland prisons spokesman, said Langhorne was paroled two weeks ago after serving nearly one year and nine months of a six-year sentence for probation violations.

Court records show that Langhorne had other brushes with the law. On Jan. 12, 1993, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge sentenced him to 10 years for drug and handgun violations. All but seven months of the sentence was suspended and Langhorne was released in early 1993, court records show.

Langhorne's father, James E. Langhorne of Woodlawn, said he couldn't believe that his son could kill anyone.

"You never know what a person is capable of, but I just don't think that he could have done something like that," said the elder Langhorne, a maintenance custodian in the Baltimore County public schools system.

He said his son had been looking for work since being paroled. Asked if he had heard of the Laurence Jones killing, James E. Langhorne said: "I didn't, but it must be terrible for a family to lose a son like that. Crime in Baltimore is an awful thing. One time I got robbed and beaten up pretty bad on Park Heights Avenue, and ever since then, I try to stay out of the city."

Pub Date: 11/19/96

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