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Friday, January 26, 2024

The Jon Lang Murder Case

     After a party on the night of June 18, 1993, 35-year-old Jon Lang's wife Debbie died in the couple's swimming pool. The drowning took place in Patterson Township not far from the western Pennsylvania town of Industry. The Beaver County coroner ruled the death accidental.

     Nineteen years after Debbie Lang's drowning, a coroner's jury sitting in Beaver Pennsylvania ruled that Debbie Lang's death had been caused by a criminal act. In November 2012 a Beaver County prosecutor charged Jon Lang, now 54, with the murder of his wife.

     Whenever a suspect is charged with murder decades after the questioned death, the newly discovered evidence is usually a crime scene fingerprint identification or DNA evidence that linked the defendant to the victim or the site of the murder. It's forensic science that usually saves the day in cold-case murder investigations.

     In the Lang case, however, the evidence supporting the long delayed murder charge lacked the incriminating value of physical evidence. The incriminating evidence was in the form of the most unreliable evidence of all--eyewitness testimony.

     The new testimony in the Lang murder consisted of an event the witness had seen nineteen years ago when he was 16-years-old. Jamie Darlington told a panel of Beaver County coroner's jurors that on June 18, 1993 he was a guest at the Long residence. That night when Darlington looked out a second-story window he saw Jon Lang push his wife into the swimming pool. According to the witness Mr. Lang kept his struggling wife submerged by holding her down with a long-handled pool skimmer.

     According to the 35-year-old's testimony, Mr. Lang became aware that he had been seen murdering his wife. When Lang entered the house after the drowning he threatened the boy. "You didn't hear anything," he said. "And you didn't see nothing." Darlington said he didn't report the homicide out of fear for his own life.

     William Difenderfer, Jon Lang's attorney, called Jamie Darlington's testimony "preposterous." The attorney asserted that Darlington was telling this story now because he was himself in trouble with the law. (In this regard Mr. Darlington was not unlike a jailhouse snitch, the absolute bottom of the evidentiary totem pole.)

     In speaking to a local television reporter after the coroner's jury verdict, Gloria Caler, a Lang neighbor in 1993, said, "I just never believed it was an accident because the lady couldn't swim and the pool was green and it was like, who would want to go swimming in a pool like that? At the time I never thought it was an accident, but nothing came about it."

     On December 9, 2013, the first day of Jon Lang's murder trial, the defendant pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter, a lesser homicide offense. While the no-contest plea was not legally an acknowledgement of criminal culpability it was interpreted as an admission of guilt. Why else would Jon Lang allow himself to be convicted on such flimsy evidence?

     The Beaver County Judge sentenced Jon Lang to three to six years in prison, a light sentence if he had murdered his wife in cold blood. 


  1. I am Jennifer moehring Debbie's daughter ...justice was not served.I hope he rots in hell.the Lord will have the last word and final judgement.

  2. I am John Moehring Debbie's son and I am FURIOUS about this! I would have been in court if someone would have contacted me.