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The Army says an MP committed suicide.  His family says no way.

Chad Langford

Officials found Chad fatally wounded

CASE DETAILS

On March 12, 1992, military policeman Chad Langford was finishing what should have been a routine patrol of his Army Base in Huntsville, Alabama.  Thirty minutes later, Langford radioed his base station, informing them he was stopping to investigate an abandoned car.  Within minutes, the back up officer arrived to find a bizarre scene. Chad’s military ID tag, armband, and his portable police radio had been deliberately arranged in the middle of the street.  There was no sign of Chad.  Then, a quarter of a mile away, the officer found Chad’s body.

The military claimed it was suicide

The officer was shocked by Chad’s condition.  His head was bleeding and he was barely breathing.  His cap had been stuffed in his mouth and the cord from his radar unit had been wrapped around his neck.  His pistol strap was tied around his ankles.  Chad’s handcuffs were clamped on his left wrist.  On his left hand was a cryptic message written in black ink, “March 3,” and what looked like the name, “Robert.”  Strangely, Chad’s .45 caliber pistol was found under his left shoulder.  Ballistic tests would later show that two shots had been fired from Chad’s gun.  However, it could not be determined whether either of them had hit Chad.

“March 3 Robert” was written on his hand

Chad Langford was rushed to Huntsville Hospital where he died two hours later.  He was four months shy of his 21st birthday.  His father, Jim Langford, was shocked to learn that the Army believed Chad had taken his own life:

“When I heard that, I was very upset about the whole thing.  I know that my boy did not kill himself.  There’s no way.  I feel that… someone is covering something up here.”

Chad Langford was raised by his father and grandmother in a small Northern California community.  He joined the Army right after high school and was stationed in South Korea. There he earned several good conduct medals.  At the conclusion of that tour of duty, Chad joined the military police at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.  According to his family, Chad loved army life and planned to re-enlist.  Then in early 1992, Jim Langford noticed a change in his son’s behavior:

“In January he called me and told me that he’d been asked to do some undercover work.  He called me three or four different times and each time he gave me a little bit about this still working undercover.  I had asked him just exactly what was he working on.  He said guns and drugs.  Probably two or three times he told me that if he was found out that he was a dead man.  At that time I told him… you got to get out of this.  And he came back with I can’t get out of it.”

Chad’s police radio was placed in the street

When Jim Langford urged his son to talk to his undercover superior, Chad said he would not be able to for another 14 days.  But 14 days later, Chad was found bleeding with a fatal bullet wound to the head.

The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, or C.I.D., reviewed Chad’s death for four months.  Their report stated that Langford had not been involved in any undercover narcotics work.  The C.I.D. finding echoed the Army’s preliminary judgment—Chad had taken his own life.  The report included what the C.I.D. called a “Psychological Autopsy”, a post-mortem evaluation of mental health.  It described Langford as having serious, life-long emotional problems.  Jim Langford was immediately skeptical after hearing the military’s “official” evaluation:

“I’m sorry but I just can’t believe that, any of that. I mean I raised the boy for 20 years. I know him better than that.  And the military has psychologists out to talk to you… or call you over the phone and talk to you for 10 minutes and then they complete life story of everybody.  And they’re so far off base, it’s unbelievable.”

The report claimed that Chad’s suicide was triggered by a breakup with his girlfriend.  However, Chad’s former girlfriend Roxanne disagreed:

“The C.I.D. report said Chad committed suicide… over my breaking up with him.  But that wasn’t true.  I didn’t break up with Chad.  Chad broke up with me.  I had a feeling that someone was telling him to break it off with me and I think Chad did it to protect me or something.”

Roxanne saw Chad for the last time, five days before his death at the base nightclub.  He seemed to have dramatically changed.  Chad was dressed all in black, gang-style clothing.  He sported an earring and was hanging out with several rough looking men Roxanne had not seen before.  Langford’s lifestyle changes tie in with another shocking C.I.D. allegation.  In their report, the Army claimed Chad had been plotting to steal from the Army PX and cited interviews with three soldiers to prove it.  Chad’s father believed there was a legitimate explanation for any contact his son may have had with criminal elements on the base:

“Maybe they were trying to recruit him.  Maybe this was… what he was doing with the informant or the undercover work.”

Chad left phone messages for several friends just hours before his death. The C.I.D. interpreted Chad’s calls as “good-bye” messages to those he cared for the most.  However, Chad’s father never received a call:

“Chad would’ve called me.  I know he would’ve.  He would’ve called me if something was to the point where he was going to commit suicide, I know he would’ve but he didn’t call me and he didn’t call his grandmother, so there were no good-bye calls as far as I’m concerned.”

The psychological autopsy claimed that Chad Langford had a profound lack of self-esteem and was desperate to create a new image, even at the cost of his own life.  According to the report, Chad felt that the glory eluding him in life would finally be his if he appeared to have died in a heroic last stand.   They said he called in a false report of an abandoned car.  That he had staged the scene to look as if he had been accosted, and then murdered.  The official report even claimed that Chad’s accounts of undercover assignments were a total invention.

Chad’s family, however, did not believe he committed suicide, and neither did Huntsville reporter Julie Schultz:

“To start with it was very bizarre, even from the night it happened because the Huntsville Police Department and the other law enforcement agencies never heard a word from the Army about any of it.  And generally when there’s a police officer that’s shot, I mean there’ll be a manhunt, everywhere.  Even before the Army ruled that it was suicide, there was just wild speculation as to what could’ve happened to him.  People were saying espionage, drug deals, all kinds of things, then it perpetuated itself as it went with the C.I.D. reports.”

Chad’s father also believed that the military police missed opportunities to question possible suspects that night.  The MPs stopped two different cars within a mile of where Chad was found.  According to Jim Langford, in both cases the drivers were never questioned:

“It’s actually crazy.  You’re talking about a murder here.  And it appears to me that anybody within a three or four mile radius of that place should’ve been stopped and held for… some time.  They didn’t do that.”

Chad Langford’s final hours remain shrouded in mystery.  Did he invent a tale of undercover intrigue and then stage a heroic death?  Or did Chad Langford truly die a hero, gunned down in the line of duty?


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season five with Robert Stack and in season one with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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16 Comments

  1. mrz melendez

    Gang style clothes? Sporting an earring? That makes you gang related? This sounds like a cover up from the military but to say he was dressed like a gang member is being prejudice and ignorant. Get it together UM that’s very offensive.

    Reply

  2. Anonymous

    Read the report, everything’s all wrong, even if he did brilliantly stage it, his prints would have been on the gun, also when a gun is fired gunpowder residue remains and is very difficult to remove, if he had indeed shot himself it would be all over his hand and match the gunpowder in the shells and on his gun. The gun was wiped quickly (but not thoroughly) then dropped it under his shoulder, if he shot himself the gun wouldn’t have fallen behind him but in front of him, either to his side or his lap or even by his legs.

    Reply

  3. Area Resident

    I lived in the area when this happened and still do. About five years before this several hardcore bands in the area would use the armory on Memorial Parkway just south of Joe Davis stadium before Airport Road to literally have drug fueled live band parties with mosh pits that I attended several times. There was only one rule, don’t give alcohol or drugs to the soldiers. Why would a military armory allow underage teenagers, I was 16 or 17, to use coke, take acid, smoke weed, and drink until there were passed out kids and puke everywhere? Many times different soldiers would ask us for anything they saw us taking, drinking, or smoking with their superior officers walking around watching to make sure we didn’t. I can personally say they definitely were very lax about underage drug/alcohol use so I can relate to that part of the story, but I’m not a military person and do not know what MP’s can do what in undercover drug investigations. I do recall there were a lot of weird stories stirring around, but there was not a zero-tolerance drug attitude at that armory. I’m not a soldier so I do not know if that national guard armory, which is still there, is part of Redstone but I’m sure it has to be because it is close to a gate into the arsenal. Also, if you watch Forensic Files or such shows you will find that sometimes people do fall on the weapon when they commit suicide while standing using a handgun. They have a name for the way bodies fall called the “death fall” where the person drops and the legs cross. So, if a event can happen enough to merit the name “death fall” then it’s is very possible he could have fell on the gun. It doesn’t matter what part of the body the gun is under.

    Reply

  4. LUIS FREEH

    “I” THINK THE “CLUE” OR “INDICATION TO MURDER” HERE IS HIS RIGHT SHOULDER. HOW DID HIS .45 CAL. END UP “UNDER HIS RIGHT SHOULDER”? IT SHOULD BE ON HIS RIGHT BESIDE HIM IF HE SHOT HIMSELF! THE “KICK BACK, EVEN ( WITH IT’S SLIDE TO REDUCE IT), STILL WOULD PROPELL IT BACK WARDS AS LIFE LEFT HIS BODY. BESIDE HIM ON THE RIGHT OR LEFT *NOT* UNDER HIS RIGHT SHOULDER.

    Reply

  5. Do not wish to be identified

    Is this the same case that was aired when Robert Stack was the hosting the show? If not, there was another case with a similar story. I called the 800 number that was available back then. I was at that base in 1973 for training. Trust me. I had been to collage before enlisting. Drugs were very much a part of the culture on the base. Drugs were available almost all the time and very easy to get. The troops were always tipped off at least 2 days before they brought the dogs through. Even then, Some got caught. After they were caught they returned to the units to await their fate. Some were sent for counseling. After that, they seemed to be more plugged in to the contraband. In those days the drugs I saw was Marijuana, Acid, and Angel Dust. Rumors at the time seemed to point to some of the MP’s as the suppliers. I personally suspected the person that did the drug counseling.

    Reply

  6. Anonymous

    These comments feature a lot of spurious assumptions and baseless speculation.

    Based solely on the evidence provided in the article, there is no way to determine the actual cause of the young man’s death.

    Reply

  7. Mark Brougher

    He has murdered. If you don’t belive me I should say that you or the police check the gun if there’s finger prints that means he comitted suicide or the hat if it has teeth marks that meana that he comitted suicide too. I have spoken

    Reply

  8. Joan Pesta

    On Friday 4-07-2006 my son Spec. Chris was found dead in his barracks at Fort Bragg North Carolina. It took 6 months before they told us his heart stopped. I never believe them, our son was very healthy and spend the weekend before hiking and fishing with his dad. There were other soldiers in Chris’s barracks who died suddenly. In fact the day after Chris was found dead there was another soldier was found dead. This needs to stop, it’s been going on way to long. I have all my son information the army gave us. I can’t find anyone to help me get to the bottom of our son death and so many others. The CID knows about this and is doing nothing to stop it. It’s been 9 years since our son died. Maybe just maybe someone out there could help us. I can’t believe this has been going on for all these years. If anyone can help or if I can help anyone solve these murders please contact me @ jpesta@earthlink.net

    Reply

    • Jen

      I am so sorry, Joan. What a painful thing for a mother to endure.Have you made any progress on this? Maybe contact the admins at Unsolved.com. I know the facebook page at least is adding new stories

      Reply

  9. Anonymous

    We all knew it wasnt suicide….we all had our suspicions as soon as we got on base and word began to spread. I was called in and interviewed by CID about things they heard that I was aware of regarding someone who was suspected of being after Chad…another soldier…who lived off base and WAS involved in some shady stuff. This guy was scary. Just one look at him and you knew he was bad news and alot of people knew what kind of stuff he was involved with.
    I told CID everything I was aware of and gave them a name. Seemed like not long thereafter, Chad’s death was ruled a suicide. Its been 23 years….I still remember the disbelief, shock and sadness we all felt.

    Reply

  10. Aaron

    I’ve read quite a few of these apparent “suicide” stories. And i agree that a lot of them are cover-ups, but this one I’m not so sure.
    It really (and unfortunately) seems like he did stage his own death to be mysterious/ heroic. And being in the army myself, i know quite a bit about MP and what they do, and his supposed “undercover work” was most likely not true. First of all, to work undercover in the military, you have to go through extensive special training and be well qualified. It also takes quite awhile to get to that level. And from what i read, he was a “Road MP” or a “Roadie” as we call them in the army. It’s probably the most basic of MP duties, and it’s also the lowest rank. Bottom line is that him working undercover work for the MP is highly unlikely. It’s like asking a mall security guard to go undercover for a narcotics detective.
    My point is that if he lied about that, then maybe it was all part of a well thought out plan to make himself look important or like a hero.
    His phone calls made sense because why would he call his father and grandmother before committing suicide? If he did in fact stage it, then calling his father before killing himself would ruin that. So it makes sense as to why he would call his friends and not his dad. But why would he leave his arm band and radio on the street? Or better yet, why would someone who is going to kill him put that stuff there, or have him do it? I can see someone pointing a gun at him, telling him to ‘drop his stuff’ but still, his arm band?? Doesn’t make sense.
    The gun under the shoulder makes sense because in many suicides the gun is found underneath the body due to its size and weight. And the ‘cap in the mouth’ could have been placed there by him too. It is said that it was “blood soaked” but that very well could have gotten blood all over it after he was shot in the head. He could have had blood come into his mouth due to the gunshot, or it could have gotten onto the parts of the cap that were sticking out of his mouth after he was shot. Being shot in the head does produce a massive amount of blood.
    The wire around his neck and gun strap around his feet could’ve easily been placed there by him. It almost seems like overkill. If he was tied up or whatever, then don’t you think it would’ve been tied extremely tight? And the wire around his neck?? Seems like it was placed there for show. Why go to the trouble to take a wire out of the car, place it around his neck, and not strangle him but shoot him instead? Doesn’t make any sense at all. But the biggest giveaway i think, is the handcuffs. If someone was trying to/going to kill him, why would only his left hand be handcuffed?? Why not both? Because he wouldn’t have been able to shoot himself if both hands were cuffed. No one is going to put one handcuff on one hand. That just sounds so stupid.
    And finally the name Robert written on his hand. Did they ever check to see if that was his own handwriting? And why would someone else write that on his hand? I think it’s obvious he did it himself but what was the clue supposed to be? Maybe it was just a random name he wrote to cause mystery and confusion? And him telling his father that “he was a dead man if they found out he was undercover”. I think he had this entire thing planned for awhile. That’s probably why he broke up with his gf too. It makes sense.
    This whole story is just sad. He was only 20 years old and had his entire life ahead of him. I wish he did go out like a hero, but i doubt it. It really seems like he took his own life.

    Reply

    • Sky

      Yeah right. He was murdered. Major cover up. These”suicide” stories are jokes.

      Reply

    • Anonymous

      I dont think Chad Langford shot himself 9

      Reply

    • Dan

      Thats all fine and dandy but you completely ignored the fact that THEY WERE NOT HIS FINGERPRINTS on the handcuffs, gun, and etc.

      Reply

    • Grace Lanayee Woods

      The biggest red flag is the gun under the shoulder. It’s physically impossible to have pulled the trigger once caused immediate death, stop the brain and motor reflexes and have the gun leave the hand and land under the shoulder. Even if gun flew out of hand rate of speed for body weight to ground would be faster than gun rate to land prior to body.. you would have to run projection of angle of bullet to find the precise angle and position of gun and hand and arm then run mathematics against a simulation to end in that position. I’m pretty close to sure it’s almost impossible. I didn’t read the whole case and see if they checked his hand for gun powder and surrounding areas for foot prints or tire tracks or other evidence to cross analyze against his own to determine any other presence. I’m pretty sure if you run a simulation with all evidence it will rule out his ability to shoot himself which would establish murder from suicide. There is a math to all of it and position of arm exactly at landing from position at time of shooting and probably non of it will match him committing suicide.

      Reply