Slain student's family confronts killer Unusual case draws to end with shooter's life sentence

March 31, 1998|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

More than four years after an aspiring Johns Hopkins graduate student was fatally shot, his family confronted his killer in a Baltimore courtroom yesterday -- and neither side held back their hate.

"I would one night like to have a dream and see this criminal be dTC shot," said Jea Chung, a cousin of the victim, Laurence A. Jones Jr. He read the words from a victim impact statement minutes before convicted killer James W. Langhorne was sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison.

"In the dream. I would watch him bleed to death as I stand over him and wait for all of his evil blood to pour out of his body, to see what color of blood the devil possesses," Chung said to Circuit Judge Kathleen O'Ferrall Friedman.

Langhorne, who prosecutors portrayed as a vicious thug who killed Jones in a Nov. 20, 1993, street mugging, gave a wrathful speech of his own after hearing Chung call him "a wild animal" who deserved to suffer the torment of death in his own family.

"The animal is obviously not in me," the 24-year-old Langhorne said, glaring at Chung and raising his voice. "The animal is in you."

The victim's mother, Yong Cha Jones, broke down sobbing when she heard Langhorne's words and when the judge passed the sentence.

"I waited so long for this day, to get justice," said Yong Jones, who attended yesterday's hearing from her hometown of Bangor, Maine. "Now that I have finally got it, I guess I should be happy. But I don't know that I am. I'll never be the same."

Yesterday's confrontation marks the end of one of Baltimore's most unusual homicide cases. During the three years the case was unsolved, Yong Jones waged a relentless campaign to bring her only son's killer to justice, writing to dozens of investigators, journalists, local politicians and even the president.

Yong Jones often wrote that the killing was maddening to her because her Korean heritage teaches that the soul of a person who has died of a violent act won't rest until the killer is found.

At one point, she visited the site where her son was killed, in the 1400 block of Bank St. in East Baltimore, and became so overwhelmed with grief that she collapsed on the pavement.

Langhorne's attorney, Marvin "Sam" Brave, hinted in court yesterday that Yong Jones brought so much pressure on police and prosecutors that they arrested the wrong man.

"Sometimes in their zeal to put cases to rest, they ignore things that shouldn't be ignored," Brave said. "Sometimes they even tailor-make the facts to get the brass and the politicians off their backs."

Laurence Jones had just moved to Baltimore from Bangor when he was killed. He had hoped to enroll in the Johns Hopkins graduate psychology program and was living in an apartment a few doors from where he was shot in the face.

Witnesses reported seeing Langhorne running from the scene, and his girlfriend testified at his trial that he came home that night with a torn jacket and a wallet that wasn't his. Later, while Langhorne was serving time in prison on probation violations, he admitted the killing to another inmate.

Prosecutors said Langhorne and another man were staking out Bank Street near Bohager's bar to rob people who came along.

"If it were not for my aunt's [Yong Jones'] will to fight to see justice prevail, this criminal that sits before us would still be out there stalking his next prey like the wild animal that he is," Chung told the judge.

In her statement, Yong Jones told the judge, "What I know is what four years of numbness, sorrow, anger and upheaval can do to one human being. What I know is the moment that gun was blasted in my son's face, the world of the Jones family was blown into a million pieces. My life has been turned into a nightmare without hope for the future."

Pub Date: 3/31/98

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