Roy Franco was in a wheelchair and missing his left eye today when he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other charges stemming from fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend with a sawed-off shotgun at Lattin’s Country Cider Mill on Rich Road.
Franco, 55, shot himself in the head immediately after chasing down his ex-girlfriend Kay Langford and shooting her in the head, killing her. The homicide occurred inside a general store at the cider mill after she had arrived there for work the morning of Sept. 24, 2009.
Franco killed Langford in front of horrified onlookers, including cider mill owner Carolyn Lattin, who has said she tried to wrest the shotgun from Franco so Langford could flee, but he pushed her away.
Franco had trouble answering Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee’s questions in court because he’s missing part of his jaw.
He pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree assault, one count of third-degree assault and one count of possession of a short-barreled shotgun. He faces between 26 years and 34 years, eight months in prison at his Jan. 10 sentencing.
Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christy Peters said she will recommend the high end of the sentencing range. People at today’s court hearing included Langford’s stepdaughter Caprice Wilson and Langford’s niece, Casey Langford, along with Carolyn Lattin and her two daughters, Sherrie and Debbie.
Carolyn Lattin, 78, said today that she wanted to be in court for Kay’s family.
“I wasn’t doing anything other than trying to help her,” she said of when she tried to grab the shotgun from Franco. Lattin has had a cider stand at the farm where she lives since 1956.
Carolyn Lattin said Langford, 43, had worked at the cider mill for about a year and a half before her death.
“She was a good kid, a good kid,” she said. “We just love her. We miss her.”
Debbie Lattin said she was in the house when she heard the first shots that Franco fired at Langford before Langford ran into the store. Debbie Lattin said when she saw Franco run inside and heard more gunfire, she feared Franco was shooting at her mother and others inside.
“It looks like he’s suffering, and I’m glad,” Debbie Lattin said outside court. “He ruined so many lives for nothing.”
She said she and her mother become emotional when they hear gunshots from hunters near their farm in rural Thurston County. Added Carolyn Lattin, “It was a traumatic thing for all of us.”
At the time of Langford’s death, she had a new boyfriend whom she worked with at the cider mill. Jaymie Nelson, who dropped Langford off for work the morning of her homicide, has said Langford was as happy as she had ever been with her new boyfriend.
“At the end, she was very happy,” Nelson has said. “She had a smile on her face every day that she was with him.”
Wilson said Langford’s death could have been prevented if a former cider mill employee who was with Franco the night before the homicide had told Langford about threats Franco had made. Langford was unaware she was in danger, Wilson has said. According to court papers, the night before the homicide, Franco was taking target practice and told the third party he would kill Langford and her new boyfriend, then commit suicide, court papers state.
Peters said today that the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office investigated the third party but never brought any additional criminal charges.
Wilson said she’s glad Franco will go to prison. Wilson, who is pregnant, added that when Franco became “choked up” during the hearing, it upset her.
Franco’s daughter was at the court hearing, but she declined to be identified by name. She said she still loves her father, despite what he did. She said he is being held at Stafford Creek Corrections Center near Aberdeen because his medical needs can be taken care of there.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465 firstname.lastname@example.org