A Stolen Soul

Four days before Yong Jones planned to kill herself on the Baltimore street where her son was murdered, her phone rang.

It was Col. Steve Crumrine of the Baltimore police.

''Mrs. Jones, sit down,'' he told her.

Frightened that Crumrine had bad news, she sat on the stool by her breezeway.

''We've made an arrest,'' Crumrine said. ''We've got the guy who shot your son.''

For three years, Yong had waited for these words. Three years of anguish and sleepless nights. Three years of pleading with politicians and police officers to end her son's restless journey.

She had rehearsed how she would thank and praise the police if they ever made an arrest. But now all she could do was scream and cry.

Overwhelmed with the news, Yong fell from her chair and passed out on the floor.

Later that day, Yong whispered the suspect's name. After three years, she had a name and a face to blame, to hate: James Wilbur Langhorne. Police said it was Langhorne who had robbed and shot Yong's son, Laurence Jr., on a bone-chilling November night in 1993. Above: You can Download a video of Yong Jones telling the story of the phone call: The MoviePlayer video, with audio, will take about 10 minutes to download with a 28.8 modem.

Contents of the audio : When the officer called to tell Yong Jones they had found the suspect, the memory is vividly brought back and recounted on camera:

"Oh, that moment. You see that, I've been waiting three years to get it, that phone call. And he said, 'are you sitting down,' and I said, 'Yes.' 'Last night officer went out to pick up the suspect and we think he is the one.... (long pause, emotion) ....'that's it, that's all I need to hear of it.'"

Though police suspected two men had mugged her son, they told Yong they believed Langhorne had shot him. He'd bragged to a jailhouse buddy that he had killed a guy who didn't want to give up his wallet and jewelry.

Langhorne had also shown his girlfriend the spoils of the robbery, a gold ring and a wallet.

Eleven months before the Bank Street murder, Langhorne had been released from prison after doing time on drug-dealing and illegal handgun convictions.

Yong was stunned when she learned Langhorne had served only seven months of his 10-year sentence for those crimes.

They let this animal out of prison early so he can kill my son, she thought.

Her chest burned with rage. She blamed a failed judicial system and Langhorne for destroying her family. This criminal not only had killed her son, he had put her husband, Laurence Jones Sr., into an early grave. Two years after her son's murder, Yong's husband had died. The doctors said it was a heart attack, but Yong knew better. He had died of grief and bitterness over his son's unsolved murder.

But with Yong's rage came relief. Finally, after three years, her son's soul was one step closer to resting in peace. Once Langhorne was convicted, Yong believed, her son's spirit would finally be freed, finally be able to rise to Heaven.

''Your soul won't have to wander no more, Junior,'' she told him.

Yong also knew that now she wouldn't have to carry out her desperate plan. She had bought a train ticket for Baltimore and had resigned herself to committing suicide on Nov. 20, the third anniversary of Junior's death. She believed taking her own life would draw new attention to the case and possibly help solve it.

Now, after learning of Langhorne's arrest, she had a reason to live.

While Yong was relieved, another mother living 600 miles away was devastated. Above: James V. Langhorne, seated at left, poses with his parents and siblings for a family portrait. After his arrest in connection with the murder of Laurence Jones Jr., Langhorne's mother, Joyce, center, prayed that her son was innocent of the crime.

Joyce Langhorne was a religious woman, and she prayed that her son James was innocent.

James was her baby, the youngest of three children. Joyce and her husband, James Langhorne Sr., had tried to raise their children right. They'd taken their three kids to church, disciplined them plenty, and encouraged them to do well in school.

The Langhornes also had tried to show their children the importance of earning an honest day's wage. Both Joyce Langhorne and her husband had jobs with the Baltimore County school maintenance department.

James showed promise, working at fast-food restaurants like Pizza Hut and McDonald's, where he eventually was promoted to manager. His mother had urged him to take business courses, since he seemed to like restaurant work. Joyce Langhorne thought James might go to culinary school.

But James had other plans. He got involved with a girl and dropped out of high school in the 10th grade. Not long after he quit, he and his girlfriend started having babies.

They relied on welfare and lived in a rundown housing project in southeast Baltimore.

Joyce Langhorne worried about her son. At times he looked so tired, sickly and pale. His eyes seemed dead, dulled by a thin filmy glaze.

She would later learn her son had grown fond of heroin. In his late teens, he began shooting it into his veins and selling it on the streets.

Still, Joyce Langhorne couldn't believe her son was capable of murder. Often she told him: ''Crime, drugs and guns don't pay. Stay out of the system. You'll become a number and then you'll have no name, no future.''

He'd look at her with his big brown eyes and try to comfort her: ''Don't worry, Mom. I'm not going to get in trouble.''