David Biro

Over time the sentencing guidelines and procedures when it comes to those who commit crimes as a minor have changed. In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty could not be given to anyone who was under the age of eighteen at the time of their crime. In 2012 they ruled that mandatory life sentences to offenders under the age of eighteen was akin to “cruel and unusual punishment.” This did not mean that minors could not receive life in prison, just that mandatory rules should not apply. Both of these new rules threw quite a few wrenches into the juvenile system. First it meant that anyone who had been under eighteen and sentenced to death had their sentence automatically overturned, or at the very least converted to life sentences. Then the 2012 ruling required that every juvenile who had been sentenced under mandatory sentencing laws had to have their case reviewed through the courts.

David Biro was sentenced to three mandatory life terms plus terms for home invasion and burglary. Two of the life term sentences stemmed from the murders of Nancy and Richard (all articles say this is his name but a 2015 appeal said his name was Stephen) Langert. The third life term came from the charge of “intentional homicide of an unborn child,” a child Nancy Langert was carrying. It appears from what I understand that this last sentence was also a result of mandatory sentencing but in 2015 the Illinois courts ruled that it was not specified in the 2012 Supreme Court ruling and hence would stand and did not require a re-hearing. They ruled he would be entitled to a hearing on the charges for the murders of Nancy and Richard but stated it would make little impact considering this charge would keep him in prison for life. I suspect however this is not the last that we will hear of this case and that their will be a higher appeal made on this issue.

On April 7, 1990 Nancy and Richard Langert returned to their Winnetka Illinois townhouse at about 10:30 pm. The following day Nancy's father, Lee Bishop would find their bodies in the basement of their home. Richard was shot once in the head while Nancy had been shot twice, once in the chest and once in the abdomen. I did find another article in my research that claims that Nancy was shot three times in the abdomen, “while she cowered.” but I am going with the appeal record on this. There is a piece of me that says the report of extra shots in the abdomen, and the lack of reporting a shot to the head, as well as the description given may have been more for sensationalism than for facts. It was reported that Nancy had covered her stomach just before she was shot begging for the life of her child, but to be fair that never came from David Biro and only from witnesses who would claim they had heard him recount the story.

Keep in mind that this crime occurred while DNA was still in it's infancy. The first time DNA was allowed in a court was in 1987 in Florida against a rape suspect. It would still be several years before the collecting and the examination of DNA would become standard. In fact, in the early stages it was often challenged in courts due to the lack of scientific knowledge. I think most of us can agree that all changed in 1995 during the infamous OJ Simpson trial. But despite how far it has come since then, in 1990 most places were still relying on fingerprints and blood typing.

Investigators would find a spent bullet near the top of the basement door leading to where the bodies would be found. They would also find a black glove left at the scene. The point of entry appeared to be the back porch where a glass cutter had been used to extract a portion of the door. Another significant piece of evidence would be handcuffs that had been used to bound Richard Langert. Still however there seemed to be no leads on any suspects. There seemed to be no witnesses who saw anyone suspicious near the home. The person in the adjoining townhouse would hear noises at what appeared to have been just after the couple returned home that helped investigators have a time line, but that seemed to be all. Cash and other valuables had been left in the home.

Then in October of 1990 a student at the local high school, Phu Hoang would contact the police saying that the previous July a sixteen year old classmate named David Biro had confessed to committing the crime. Authorities would claim, and Hoang would later testify that Biro had described the murders, shown him the weapon used and stated that he had cut out glass panes prior to the couple returning home and that he had waited for them to return. According to authorities this all fit with the crime. A search warrant for David Biro's home was made and they would discover what they believed to be the weapon used in the crime, a pair of glass cutters and two pairs of handcuffs similar to the ones used to bind Richard Langert.

Biro would be arrested and go on trial in November of 1991. Research as to what was presented at his actual trial as opposed to a civil suit filed by the victims families in 1996 were sketchy so I will try my best to establish the evidence that was found or the things said. The attorney at the civil trial would say that the couple had returned to their home after a night out with family and that Biro was in the home waiting for them. I can only assume that this was also presented at the trial and where the civil attorney got their information. It was believed that they were handcuffed and held at gunpoint as they were led down the basement stairs. At some point it seems that Biro stated, testified or it was related in his trial that for his part he would not argue that the weapon found in his home at the time of the arrest was murder weapon. He would claim that he had stolen the gun from an attorney and gave it to a classmate, Burke Abrams, to sell but that on the night of the murders Abrams had returned the gun to him and admitted to killing two people with it. He would claim that Abrams asked him to hide the weapon for him. To be fair on both sides of this issue I never saw another word from, or about Burke Abrams. I can only assume that the story was investigated and not proven. I would like to assume, although I have nothing to back this claim, that had the story been investigated that Abrams would have testified that he was not involved but again, I saw nothing more about him. This was not a case in which a defendant had a supposed lapse in memory as we see sometimes and stated he gave the weapon to a kid who he did not remember his name or a case where he did not say how he came into possession of the weapon. This was a case in which another person was named. Biro also apparently admitted that he had told several people the story of killing the couple but would claim that Hoang was the only person that did not think he was joking as he would claim.

It is often said that prosecutors do not need a motive to prove a defendant guilty but that most at least attempt to present one because they know juries want to know why. That does not seem to be the case here. Prosecutors could show that David's parents were friends with people who were related to Nancy but they could not know what he had ever met the couple. They had already proven that nothing seemed to have been stolen from the home. He would be convicted after the jury deliberated for two hours and then the following month, in December of 1991 he would be sentenced to life in prison. It was at this sentencing that the judge attempted to explain a motive but would say that he could only think that it was done for infamy or notoriety.

The same month that David Biro was sentenced the Supreme Court struck down a law that had automatically seized money that criminals earned through things such as movies and books about their crimes. In turn the victims family filed the civil suit. It would be several years before it was settled but in 1996 a judge granted the family a $41M judgment. The family openly noted they knew they would never see that money, nor had they sued for that. They had simply done so in attempts to prevent Biro from obtaining money pertaining to the crime.

As I stated above, as of now Biro's sentence still stands and while I cannot say that will always be the case I do feel we'll see more of this issue in the courts in the future. I was struck a bit by the ruling that his sentence was not re-evaluated as the Supreme Court had suggested that it should be due to the fact that the issue of the homicide of an unborn child had not been addressed. I see this as a technicality that will be looked at again. This ruling also left some other questions for me. While Nancy Langert was in deed pregnant she was not likely openly visibly so as she was only three months along in her pregnancy. I am not arguing as to whether her child would have survived or if the law should take this into account, but the charge in which Biro was convicted was “the intentional homicide of an unborn child.” From all that I have found Biro has never admitted to the courts as being involved. All that the courts had as far as supposed accounts of what was said and done in the home came from others, presumably all classmates, in which would claim he had confessed. For something to be “intentional” as the charge states that would mean that he would have had to reasonably known that Nancy Langert was pregnant. Now, of course the reports that she begged for the life of her baby could be completely true, but the reality is that there was no way of truly knowing without an official confession from him.  


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