Murder for Hire

Oct 10, 2009 - by Ronald J. Lawrence - 0 Comments

Downtown Pacific MO

Downtown Pacific MO

Lawyers don't always confine their differences to the courtroom. Attorney Joseph Langworthy's murder was a cold-blooded execution paid for by an attorney so well connected that the chief of police "lost" all the evidence in the case for over a year.

by Ronald J. Lawrence


Joseph H. Langworthy Jr. was a man of strong convictions and unshakable principles. A lawyer with a practice in Pacific, a community on the southwest fringes of the St. Louis suburbs, he tolerated no abuses of his profession and of the law.

He often was the center of controversy he sometimes created. He had been city attorney of nearby Times Beach, his hometown, but was dismissed when he charged that municipal officials had violated state laws in their administration of the police department. In Pacific, he sent tremors through the local political establishment when he challenged the qualifications of the newly elected police judge.

An unpretentious man of candor, Langworthy's rigid standards were reflected in his personal appearance. His hair was trimmed in crew-cut style and he wore a bow tie. Almost symbolically, he was an avid musician and played the tuba in a Dixieland jazz ensemble that entertained fans during Cardinal baseball games at Busch Stadium.

That his law practice was successful was evident by the long hours he worked. He often was in his office until late at night with clients. His office was on the second floor of a downtown Pacific drug store. The first floor door to his office always was unlocked and a sign invited people to "Walk In."

There was nothing ambiguous about the 58-year-old Langworthy. He was quick to speak his mind and he was not averse to challenging those he believed were wrong, the higher and the mightier the better.

It perhaps explained why by the summer of 1976 Langworthy had a police escort when he left his office late at night. He had reason to be concerned. He had made a powerful enemy and his life was worth only $7,000.

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