Worker killed at cider mill

Carolyn Lattin, 77, struggled to wrest a sawed-off shotgun away from a man who shot and killed his former girlfriend Thursday morning at Lattin's Country Cider Mill on Rich Road before turning the gun on himself.

Lattin, who has had a cider stand at the farm where she lives since 1956, sobbed as she explained how she tried to prevent the slaying of Kay Langford, who was an employee at Lattin’s.

“What a sad thing for a person to do to another human being, ” Lattin said. “She was shot right there by my feet. I tried to stop him. I just couldn’t hold on to him, and he just got away. What a horrible person to do something like that.”

She said that she tried to grab the gunman’s clothes and his arm. “I saw her take her last breath, ” she said.

Lattin said she will never forget the look on Langford’s face before she was killed.

“She looked at me with the most fright in her eyes that you could ever imagine a human being could have, ” she said.

Lattin said she was not afraid of the sawed-off shotgun.

“I’m old; what difference does it make if I’m here?” she said.

The gunman, Roy Franco, 54, was in critical condition Thursday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, under arrest on suspicion of murder. The deceased woman was identified as Kay I. Langford, 43, by Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock.

Debbie Lattin, who lives on the site with her mother, Carolyn, said she heard a gunshot while she was getting dressed about 8:40 a.m. She said she ran to the doorway and saw a man fire a sawed-off shotgun at Langford as she tried to flee.

“I saw her be hit and fall, ” Debbie Lattin said. “And then she stumbled up and ran into the cider mill.”

Debbie Lattin said she was terrified when she saw Franco follow the woman into the cider mill, a barn-like building where the Lattins sell fruit, vegetables and baked goods such as doughnuts and apple fritters. Her mother and two other employees were inside.

Debbie Lattin said she couldn’t see what was going on inside the building as she called 911, but she heard three more shots.

She later learned that her 77-year-old mother had tried to grab the man’s arm so Langford could get away.

“But he was too strong, ” she said. “He knocked my mom down.”

Debbie Lattin said that after the shooting stopped, she still was standing in the doorway. She said she saw Franco “come out, walking calmly.” She heard a final shot from near where he had parked, but didn’t see what had happened.

Debbie Lattin said her mother and the other employees were not injured.

Franco was flown by helicopter to Harborview with a gunshot wound to the head.

The cider mill, a fall gathering spot for South Sound families that includes a petting zoo, homemade baked goods and fresh produce, had not opened for business when the shootings occurred.

Debbie Lattin said Langford was the mother of two children, a 17-year-old son and an older daughter who had recently learned she was pregnant. Langford’s children are not related to the gunman, she added.

Debbie Lattin said that about a month and a half earlier, Langford had moved out of the home she shared with the gunman.

“She’d been having some domestic problems with him, ” Lattin said, adding that Franco had shoved the victim in the past. Langford had told Carolyn Lattin that she was afraid of him.

Langford will be missed, Debbie Lattin said.

“She worked here about a year and a half, ” she said. “She was a wonderful person. Everybody loved her. I just don’t know what we’re going to do without her.”

Debbie Lattin said she feels terrible for the woman’s family.

“She did not deserve what happened to her, ” she said.

Officials with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said the suspect arrived at the cider mill in a silver-colored Chevy Blazer and confronted Langford in a parking area. Sheriff’s deputies confirmed that the woman ran, and the gunman chased her to the cider mill area, where he fired his weapon more than once.

Sgt. Cheryl Stines said there was no restraining order that would have required the gunman to stay away from the victim.

The sheriff’s office confirmed that there were three other witnesses, including Carolyn Lattin, who tried to stop the man.

“An employee did try to physically restrain him at one point during the altercation, ” Thurston County Chief Deputy Dave Pearsall said. He said the suspect also pointed the shotgun at one of the witnesses in the barn but fired only at the victim.

After Franco shot Langford, he returned to the area where his car was parked and shot himself, Pearsall said.

Sheriff’s investigators blocked the cider mill off with crime-scene tape Thursday afternoon and gathered in the building where the homicide occurred. Investigators also gathered around the suspect’s car.

Dave Nulf, who lives across the street from the cider mill, said he heard two gunshots Thursday morning about 15 seconds apart, but he didn’t think anything of it because people often target-shoot in the area.

Nulf and his wife, Beverly, said the cider mill is an institution and would have been very busy with customers on a typical Thursday morning if not for the slaying.

Debbie Lattin said there is supposed to be an apple festival at the cider mill Saturday and Sunday. She said she does not know whether it will go on as scheduled, but “we’re going to try.”

“The inside is pretty bad, so it will take a lot of cleaning, ” she said.

Carolyn Lattin said she and the other employees will try to open for the apple festival this weekend. She said that she already is getting a lot of support from the community.

“We’ve got the best customers you could ever want, ” she said.

It’s going to be hard for the Lattins and the 25 or so employees who work there, Carolyn Lattin said.

“I cared for her, ” Carolyn Lattin said of Langford. “All of the employees are just devastated. If I was bigger and stronger, maybe I could have helped.”

Pearsall said investigators have the shotgun that is thought to have been used in the shootings. Rich Road was closed to traffic so people could not drive up to the crime scene as detectives investigated.

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Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465