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Slayings of Winnetka Couple Unsolved, Complex

May 5, 1990

WINNETKA, Ill. (AP) _ Few things are unkempt in this Chicago suburb of million-dollar homes, but the slayings of a young couple have left a messy case marked by international intrigue and a bloody last goodbye.

A $20,000 reward and a multistate police investigation have done little to solve the killings of Richard and Nancy Langert, whose bodies were discovered April 8 by her father in the basement of a townhouse he owned.

″Is it baffling? Yeah it’s baffling, if you mean interesting,″ said police Lt. Joseph Sumner, who can see the roof of the townhouse from his office window. ″But it’s not unsolvable.″

Police quickly ruled out robbery. Instead they are examining the couple’s business, family and personal lives, as well as a fourth area that they refuse to discuss - the involvement of Mrs. Langert’s sister, Jeanne Bishop, in supporting human rights in Northern Ireland and defending an Irish Republican Army member imprisoned in New York.

Police are examining the couple’s finances and the possibility of a drug or other criminal link. The family contends there is none. Friends and co-workers at Gloria Jean’s Coffee Bean Corp., where the two worked, say likewise.

″If you were looking for best friends to have, they were the kids that you would want to be best friends with,″ said Roger Badesch, spokesman for the Arlington Heights-based chain of gourmet coffee stores. ″There’s just no way that they could be involved in anything that would warrant this.″

Langert, 30, and Mrs. Langert, 25, had been staying at the townhouse for about six months while they prepared to move into their own home in another suburb. On April 7, they went to dinner with Nancy’s parents and Ms. Bishop.

Police say that one or more intruders were waiting when the couple returned home. They were led into the basement. Richard was handcuffed and shot once in the back of the head.

Mrs. Langert, 2 1/2 months pregnant, was shot through the elbow. Police said it was as she tried to escape. She then was shot twice in the torso and bled to death at the foot of the stairs.

A neighbor reported hearing Mrs. Langert say ″No, not again 3/8″ followed by popping shots, but said she thought it was the television. Mrs. Langert’s father, M. Lee Bishop, discovered the couple the next day.

Mrs. Langert’s purse was found on the first floor of the townhouse. Neither the $500 she had readied for bank deposit nor her credit cards were taken, but her purse and wallet had been searched, police said.

Investigators also found the handcuffs, a small, bloody ax, an article of clothing believed to belong to an offender and four slugs from a .38- or .357- caliber Magnum pistol.

On a piece of fallen shelving they found a message written by Mrs. Langert in her own blood.

Police say only that the message appears to have no significance. The Chicago Tribune reported that it was a heart, followed by a ″u″ - an apparent goodbye message from the dying woman to her loved ones.

Police refuse to say whose blood is on the ax or further identify the article of clothing. But they have made three trips out of Illinois to investigate three different angles in the killings, including a trip to the East Coast to examine Ms. Bishop’s activism on behalf of prisoners in Northern Ireland, which is racked by Protestant-vs.-Catholic violence.

A local television station first reported, quoting law enforcement sources, that Ms. Bishop was the target of an alleged death threat connected to her work in Northern Ireland.

Ms. Bishop said the alleged threats were disclosed by law enforcement authorities to get her to divulge her contacts in Northern Ireland. The FBI and police deny leaking the story, but Ms. Bishop has since stopped cooperating.

There have been four slayings in the history of this suburb of 13,000, about a half-hour north of Chicago on Lake Michigan, where the average home sold for $300,000 to $400,000 in 1988.

The most notorious was in ’88 when a young woman, Laurie Dann, went on a shooting spree at a grade school, killing an 8-year-old boy and wounding several others before killing herself.

The Langert killings and the rumors about Ms. Bishop’s Irish connection no longer dominate conversations. Police Chief Herbert Timm said he feels no pressure from residents because the ″very complex mystery″ is still unsolved.

″I think (residents) feel that it’s an isolated incident,″ said Tom King, who lives in nearby Morton Grove and works a block from the townhouse. ″I think if it had been a burglary (and killing) there’d have been a lot more worry about it.″

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