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

Prologue

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.

The Murder

"And then when I cut his throat, he said, 'Lord, don't let him kill me' and this and that."

Richard Chandler

Richard Chandler was primed to kill. He had worked hard for weeks and had taken risks to arrive at this moment. Now, as night fell on Aug. 2, 1976, his nerves tensed and his breath quickened with each passing minute. He struggled with his impulses. He had to be patient until the time was right.

Finally, at a little before 10, Katherine Finder, Attorney Joseph Langworthy's secretary, emerged from the doorway of the office building and went to her car parked nearby. Chandler, 34, and his brothers, Darryl , 33, and Michael, 16, watched from their car across the street as she drove off.

They were familiar with Langworthy's second-floor office. A few hours earlier they had talked with him for 30 minutes about a divorce. It had been a pretense to case the office. Richard also was well acquainted with his habits. He had been observing Langworthy for three months. During the last several weeks he had intensified his surveillance late at night, following Langworthy from the city limits after the police escort ended. Langworthy had escaped death several times when he either drove too fast or heavy traffic on Interstate 44 prevented Chandler from getting close enough to shoot him.

The brothers waited another 30 minutes to make sure there were no clients in the office. The lights were still on and they could see him moving about. Now it was time to kill.

They left the car and crossed the street, quickly ascending the stairs. They said nothing. Their plan had been well thought out. Michael stayed at the top of the stairs as a lookout. Richard was armed with a hunting knife, Darryl with a .357 magnum pistol. They would deceive Langworthy into believing he was being robbed and would not be harmed. That way, they hoped, he would offer less resistance. Richard later explained why.

 

"I didn't want him to start screaming or creating any sound because I didn't want to attract attention. That was the full intention of having the knife because I knew the police would be around. And when they heard the shot there would be a lot of police and that would be bad."

The door to the office was closed.

"I knocked on the door and hollered, 'Is anyone here'? And then I stepped on in and saw Mr. Langworthy walk across the room. And he asked me what I wanted."

Richard Chandler was unaware that the lawyer had been talking to Katherine Finder on the telephone and had placed the receiver on the desk. The robbery ploy began. Darryl aimed the pistol at Langworthy's heart. Richard ordered the lawyer to sit in the chair behind his desk and he wouldn't be hurt. He told him to remove the money from his billfold. Langworthy placed a wad of bills on the desk.

"As a matter of fact, to be exact, it was $246. I stuck that in my pocket. I don't want to touch nothing because I don't have no gloves. I don't want to leave no fingerprints in the building."

Now, Langworthy, fearing for his life, began resisting. Darryl jammed the pistol against the side of the lawyer's head. Richard clenched the hunting knife in his hand in front of the lawyer.

"He put his hands up around his face and I told him, 'Take your hands down. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm going to show you something with this knife'."

Sobbing and convulsing, Langworthy still refused to remove his hands that shielded his face. In a swift, deliberate move, the knife plunged toward his midsection.

"So, I stabbed him in the stomach. And then when I cut his throat, he said, 'Please don't kill me. Lord don't let him kill me' and this and that."

Outside, Michael Chandler listened as Langworthy pleaded for his life. And then, he would say later, he heard a "gurgling noise." Disgust and fear distorted his face, choked him.

Blood gushed from the completely severed veins and arteries in Langworthy's throat. His breath wheezing, his hand trembling violently, he reached for the telephone on the desk in front of him and tried to speak into it. But his words were only indistinguishable murmurs. And then, with a final convulsion, a last gasp for air, Joseph Langworthy died. He slumped forward, his head face down on the desk now covered with blood.

When Richard Chandler realized the murder might have been overheard, he quickly cut the cord before fleeing the office, his right hand, still clutching the knife, was covered with blood.

Indeed, Katherine Finder had listened as her employer was killed. Stunned by what she had heard, she called another secretary, Helen Brauer, who lived in Pacific. She alerted police, who arrived only minutes after the Chandlers had left.

As they drove from the scene, Richard Chandler said the manner in which Langworthy died was "amusing."

"Like the man was supposed to be an atheist and he was talking to the Good Lord above for his life."

Later, Chandler threw the knife in the nearby Meramec River. Michael Chandler filled Richard's bloody boots with rocks and dropped them in a pond. Richard feared his shoe prints would be found in the blood-covered office floor. For his part, Michael was paid $200. It wouldn't go far in supporting his $80-a-day drug habit.

The Langworthy murder would remain unsolved and lie dormant for two years. Investigators had few substantive leads. Within hours, they had ruled out robbery as a motive. Nothing was missing from the blood-splattered office and there were no signs of a struggle. They had vague descriptions of three men who had visited the office earlier to discuss a divorce, but they didn't know for whom they were looking.

When authorities did learn the background of Langworthy's killing, it would become one of the most bizarre, if not inept, murder-for-hire plots in the St. Louis area.

Incriminating Evidence

The hit hadn't exactly been a textbook assassination.

Chandler was an improbable, hapless hit man with a singular, devastating flaw. His ego sometimes clouded his criminal judgment and he couldn't keep his mouth shut. He was hardly the strong, silent stereotyped professional assassin he craved being. Besides, he had left a trail of incriminating evidence and witnesses in the Langworthy killing. The hit hadn't exactly been a textbook assassination.

The day of the Langworthy murder he made his first mistake. Late in the afternoon, his car ran out of gas in his hometown of Potosi, a rural community about 50 miles south of Pacific, as he set out to kill the lawyer. A police officer inquired of the trouble and Chandler explained that "he was in a hurry to get to Pacific to do a job." A year after the murder, Pacific police officers would interview the Potosi officer and prepare a report for Chief James A. Ray.

Pacific police interviewed several witnesses in Potosi who had overheard Chandler bragging about killing Langworthy and his relationship with Anding. The interviews were tape recorded and reports were written. They also were given to Chief Ray. Potosi Police Lt. Wayne Malugen reported that several months after the killing he had met Chandler in the Washington County Courthouse. Chandler had introduced him to Anding as a "personal friend."

About 5:30 a. m. on Sept. 22, 1977, more than a year after Langworthy's death, Pacific police officers found Chandler asleep in his car in front of Anding's house. He said he had "urgent business" with Anding and was waiting until the lawyer awakened. They, too, would note the incident.

More disastrously for himself and for Anding, Chandler had an embittered estranged wife. Fearing for her life, Evelyn Chandler deserted her husband after the Langworthy murder and fled to Oregon. In June 1977, she told authorities there about her husband's involvement in the murder.

She had overheard her husband plotting Langworthy's death and had accompanied him on a number of surveillances of the lawyer. On the day after the murder, she was with him when he met with Anding in a restaurant in Union, the Franklin County seat. Anding congratulated Chandler for being "real slick" when murdering Langworthy. She said her husband asked Anding when he would be paid for the murder and Anding told him in several days. Outside the restaurant, she saw Anding hand her husband what appeared to be an envelope. Later that day, they purchased a new television set.

"Richard told me that I was going with him (to the meeting) so that I would know that Anding had hired him to kill Mr. Langworthy and that if he was ever arrested or anything, I could use that information to blackmail Mr. Anding. He said that if anything should happen to him, he (Anding) would have him out in a year."

She told of a conversation she had overheard between Richard and Darryl Chandler shortly after the murder.

"Darryl said, 'It would have been funny if we'd have stuck an apple in his mouth and he would have looked like a stuffed hog'."

Oregon authorities prepared a report detailing Mrs. Chandler's statement. Copies were sent to Chief Ray and Franklin County Sheriff H. Bill Miller. But a copy of the Oregon report, the reports about the interviews and the tape recordings in Ray's possession disappeared. The Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, which was investigating the murder, had no knowledge of them for more than a year. Without them, they had no motive or suspect in Langworthy's slaying.

Then, in September 1978, 15 months after Evelyn Chandler had given her statement and the Langworthy murder was all but written off as unsolved, an informant told Michael J. Scott, chief investigator for the prosecutor, about the reports and recordings. Ray denied knowledge of the report from Oregon or of any of the other documents. Eventually, he gave what he said was one of the tape recordings to prosecutors, but it was blank. Miller refused to comment, although it was learned he had them in his possession.

Ray told this reporter that he had known Anding for 20 years, but that it was not an "intimate" friendship. He also said that he was acquainted with Chandler, who had offered to assist in his re-election campaign in April 1977. He said he declined the offer. Ray subsequently was defeated.

A Confession

"I snuffed people out for money."

Richard Chandler

In the early summer of 1978, two years after the Langworthy murder, Richard Chandler, a convicted felon, was arrested in Oregon on a Missouri charge of carrying a concealed weapon. In September, with convincing evidence piling up against him in the Langworthy murder case, he was extradited to Missouri. On Sept. 27, he gave a 30-minute videotaped statement in which he described how he had watched the attorney for weeks and in detail how he had slashed his throat. He spoke without emotion, his voice a monotone. His eyes that seemed to pierce to the very soul betrayed the cold, calculating man.

Chandler insisted he had committed the murder by himself, even though investigators suspected differently. They knew Langworthy probably would not have surrendered meekly to a single killer. With that exception, they had little doubt about the truth of his statement. Many of the details of the murder and of Langworthy's office as Chandler related them were exactly as police had found them and which only they and the killer knew.

It was a contract killing, Chandler said. His motive for killing Langworthy had been money. The man who had hired him was not an inconsequential person. He was James L. Anding IV, 47, a pillar of respectability and influence. A member of a prominent Pacific area family, Anding was a prominent lawyer. Not only that, he was a power in the Franklin County Democratic Party and was the brother-in-law of Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo. He had been city attorney of Pacific and his wife, Catherine, was a former Franklin County treasurer. Anding had been Chandler's lawyer for several years.

Chandler had demanded $10,000 from Anding in early negotiations. But, he said, Anding protested that it was too much. They compromised on $7,000, half in advance, half after the killing. Chandler had been impatient with the delays in killing Langworthy.

"I do things for pay. In other words … I snuffed people out for money. So, I wanted to hurry up and get it done because I wanted to get my money because I was short on money."

Chandler said Anding had taken him to a number of locations, including a Cardinals baseball game, to point out Langworthy, but they were unable to find him until they went to the Franklin County Courthouse. He said he didn't know Anding's motive for wanting Langworthy dead and didn't care.

"All he ever told me was that he didn't like the guy and that he was a sorry son-of-a-bitch."

Investigators mused over why he had confessed to a crime for which he could spend the rest of his life in jail. The death penalty was not in effect in Missouri in 1976. He told them he was angry with Anding who had promised him he never would spend a day in jail, and now he already had been incarcerated for more than two months. At the conclusion of his confession, he told investigators:

"If anything happens to me before Jim Anding's trial comes about, I would appreciate this tape being used against him as evidence."

Within five hours of his statement, Anding was taken into custody on a capital murder charge. A Franklin County grand jury indicted him a month later.

Chandler also was charged with capital murder. Anding, then free on bond, represented Chandler. Not long after the bond hearing began, Chandler dismissed Anding. Again, Chandler admitted his complicity, but refused to implicate his brothers. He insisted on pleading guilty immediately. The judge refused to accept his plea and eventually ordered him held on $1 million bond.

If Chandler refused to implicate his brothers in Langworthy's murder, his younger brother did it for him. Shortly after Richard confessed, Michael, an 8th grade dropout, was taken into custody in Arkansas for a burglary. His participation in the killing had troubled him. He turned against his brothers and told all he knew. He explained:

"I just couldn't live with it any longer. I kicked the drug habit and got religion. I suffered for two and a half years and I wanted to get it off my chest. I care about myself and the people who love me. I got tired of being used like a rag and thrown away."

Michael said he did not know the motive for the killing and Richard never told him.

"I didn't want to discuss it with him. I didn't want to know more than I already knew."

As a result of Michael's statement, Darryl Chandler, an illiterate logger with felony convictions for burglary, was arrested and charged with capital murder. Anding also represented him. Of the three brothers, he was the only one who denied involvement. In return for his cooperation, Michael was granted immunity in the Langworthy case and two burglary charges pending against him were dismissed. Police recovered Richard Chandler's boots from the pond where Michael said he discarded them.

Charles Carroll, 20, an associate of Chandler's, was arrested early in 1979 for possessing a sawed-off shotgun and was sentenced to prison. He told authorities he would testify against Richard Chandler in the Langworthy murder. He related that Chandler asked him to kill Langworthy for $600, but he had refused. Several weeks after the slaying, he said, Chandler told him he had killed Langworthy and explained:

"It was about the lawyer had a case that he was working on and it was endangering somebody. He was working on a case and somebody didn't want him on it. He didn't say anything else."

Investigators still were unsure of the motive for the murder, although they knew there had been bad blood between the two lawyers for some time. This reporter discovered what might have been the catalyst for Langworthy's death.

Less than three months before he was killed, Langworthy had threatened to file a malpractice suit against Anding. It was learned that Anding had represented Adam W. "Bill" Wiest, a Pacific auto dealer, in a $150,000 suit against a quarry for damages to his nearby home. Anding, then Pacific City attorney, volunteered to take the case and instituted litigation.

Anding, however, failed to pursue the case. It remained inactive for five years until February 1976 when the Franklin County Circuit Court dismissed it because the plaintiffs had been "dilatory" in their prosecution of it. Wiest, complaining that Anding continually had stalled him, then retained Langworthy. Langworthy filed suit against Anding to collect $1,000 owed Wiest's automobile agency. The client also told Langworthy about the suit Anding had filed in his behalf. Langworthy, Wiest said, told him that Anding appeared guilty of malpractice and suggested that he file suit against the lawyer.

Wiest said he declined, but Langworthy began threatening Anding with the malpractice litigation if he didn't pay damages to Wiest. The threats continued until the time of Langworthy's death. The suit for recovery of the $1,000 was pending when the lawyer died and Wiest eventually dropped it.

The Sinister Man Emerges

"He became very emotional and pounded hisdesk when Langworthy's name was mentioned."

Michael Ford

As investigators delved further into Anding's activities and background they slowly became aware of his insidious nature. Others who had been involved with him and Richard Chandler came forward.

Michael Ford, a client of Anding's, said the lawyer offered him a contract to kill Langworthy two years before the murder. He had done odd jobs for Anding to pay off his legal fees and in 1974 told him that he wanted to buy a used car for $4,600. He asked Anding for a raise, but the lawyer had a better proposition. He said he would pay Ford that amount if he killed Langworthy.

Ford said he was not told why Anding wanted Langworthy murdered, but "he became very emotional and pounded his desk when Langworthy's name was mentioned." Ford said he declined the contract. He later was sentenced to prison in New Mexico for murder.

Another of Anding's clients, Ricky Holt, told of working for Anding to pay off his legal expenses and of being propositioned by him to commit a burglary. Holt said he refused because he believed he was being "set up to be arrested." After the Langworthy murder, he said, Anding told him he had hired Richard Chandler to do it.

While Anding was being investigated and charged in Langworthy's murder, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Franklin County authorities were attempting to build a case against him for masterminding an arson ring in the Pacific area.

An informant who was a member of the arson ring told authorities that he was paid $250 through an intermediary from Anding to torch the St. Clair Chronicle, a weekly newspaper. He then contracted with another man to set the fire, but before it could be done a blaze on Sept. 11, 1977, extensively damaged the building. "I just figured they had gone on and done it themselves," he told investigators.

The same informant also told authorities that he had received a $500 payment from the same intermediary to burn a vacant house owned by Anding across the street from his law office. The house, insured for $10,000, was destroyed by fire on Nov. 9, 1976.

In 1973, Anding, while city attorney, had become involved in a bitter controversy with a black man who was a candidate for the Board of Alderman. The black man lost by three votes. Anding had possession of uncounted absentee ballots that eventually decided the outcome of the election. The candidate questioned Anding's integrity. A short time later, his house was destroyed by fire. No charges were filed against Anding as a result of the investigation.

Quick Justice

"I'll be 86 years old before I'll be able to see the parole board. I'll probably be dead by then."

Richard Chandler

The wheels of justice ground swiftly but surely for Richard Chandler. A jury deliberated only 49 minutes on June 28, 1979, in finding him guilty of capital murder. It was exactly nine months and one day after he made his confession, not quite three years from when he slashed Langworthy's throat. Several jurors said it was his confession that convinced them of his guilt. Michael Chandler, sometimes in tears, testified against him.

As he stood impassively before the judge to hear the verdict, he still bore the scars of a suicide attempt nine days earlier. Ironically, he had tried to slash his throat with a scalpel, but it was too dull to sever the jugular vein. Instead, he cut a vein in the inside of the elbow of his left arm and sat bleeding for an hour before he was discovered.

On June 11, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance for parole for 50 years. Shortly before punishment was imposed, he spoke with reporters. A wry grin slightly distorting his mouth, he said calmly and without rancor:

"I've been convicted of capital murder. I'll be 86 years old before I'll see the parole board. I'll probably be dead by then."

Darryl Chandler maintained his innocence to the end, but he fared no better than his brother. On April 1, 1980, he also was convicted of capital murder. The jury deliberated almost four hours. As in Richard's trial, Michael was a key state's witness. Darryl took the stand in his own defense and denied ever killing anyone.

He, too, was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for 50 years. Six years later, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned his conviction, ruling that the trial had been prejudiced because Anding was one of his attorneys. The prosecution amended the charge to second-degree murder and Chandler pleaded guilty. The same sentence was imposed.

Anding, The Manipulator

"Money in an institution becomes very quickly a tool for power … Anding could become a kingpin …"

David G. Mason, legal counsel

The case against Anding took several surprising twists and, to prosecutors, it appeared he might have been pulling the strings.

In April 1979, just two months before Richard Chandler went on trial, he had a sudden change of heart about Anding. No longer did he wish to see the man who had given him the Langworthy contract punished. He declined to testify against Anding. Without his testimony, the state virtually had no case and the murder charge against him was dismissed without prejudice.

Chandler did so after rejecting a plea bargain offered by the prosecution. In return for his testimony against Anding, he could plead guilty of second-degree murder. He still would be sentenced to life imprisonment, but the term would be served in a state that had more lenient parole eligibility.

It was the best offer the state could make in such a grotesque crime.

The murder charge might have been in limbo, but Anding could not escape totally the clutches of the law. Three years after the indictment was dismissed, he was convicted of tampering with a witness and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. A Franklin County couple had reported the theft of a $500 fishing boat and identified a client of Anding's as the thief. The client was charged, but was freed when the couple failed to appear at the preliminary hearing. Later, the couple said that Anding had offered them payment of $2,400 in return for not appearing in court.

Based on this conviction, the Missouri Supreme Court in 1986 permanently disbarred Anding.

By 1983, Richard Chandler had second thoughts about Anding. While he had languished in prison for more than four years, his mentor had escaped retribution for his part in the Langworthy killing. Chandler now was willing to testify. The capital murder charge was reinstated against Anding and in 1986 he went on trial. Michael Chandler testified that Anding visited him while he was in jail in Arkansas in 1978 on a burglary charge. As they talked, Anding scribbled on a piece of paper in the palm of his hand and gave the note to him. It read, "Don't you talk."

Richard Chandler apparently had a score to settle with his younger brother. He testified that Michael had helped hold down Langworthy, had stolen the money from his billfold and had cut the telephone cord. Michael denied any such involvement.

To the surprise of the prosecution, the jury, after deliberating three hours, convicted Anding of manslaughter. It had been given the choice of capital murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter or acquittal. He was sentenced to 10 years.

While in prison, Anding, always the opportunist, attempted to build a criminal dynasty. He was paid money by other convicts in return for legal advice, even though prison officials had ordered him not to. Anding, who was serving time in the state's correctional facility at Pacific, was transferred to another prison as punishment. David G. Mason, chief legal counsel for the Missouri Department of Corrections, explained the hazards of what Anding had done.

"Money in an institution becomes very quickly a tool for power, control and extortion. Anding could become a kingpin and he could make himself a target for retribution."

In June 1988, the Missouri Supreme Court freed Anding, then 57 and gravely ill. It ruled that he had been wrongly convicted because no evidence had been introduced in the trial to support manslaughter. But it did not find that he was innocent in the Langworthy slaying. Chief Justice William H. Billings wrote:

"… defendant was either guilty of deliberate, premeditated murder or of nothing at all. There are simply no facts … upon which to conclude that the killing of Joseph Langworthy was provoked or was committed without deliberation, malice and premeditation."

Anding's freedom was a bittersweet victory. He died not long afterwards.

 

This article was condensed from articles published by this reporter and others in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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