Chad Langford

Chad Langford

Chad Langford

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

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 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.

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.”

Officials found Chad fatally wounded

Officials found Chad fatally wounded

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.”

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.”

“March 3 Robert” was written on his hand

“March 3 Robert” was written on his hand

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?