WMU News

Charges filed in 22-year-old campus homicide case

March 5, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- A man was arraigned today and charged with murder in the 1980 killing of a Western Michigan University student in a campus parking lot.

The Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's office issued a first degree murder warrant Feb. 27 against Roberto D'avanzo, who previously was a suspect in the murder of 21-year-old Patricia A. Lang of Grosse Isle, Mich. D'avanzo was arrested today at the Macomb Correctional Facility, where he is currently incarcerated on armed robbery charges, and brought to Kalamazoo for arraignment.

The long-unsolved murder case was cracked by the Kalamazoo County Cold Case Team, which re-opened the investigation into Lang's death in September 2002. The team was able to identify new witnesses who can testify about D'avanzo's involvement in the killing. Detectives from the team arrested D'avanzo and brought him to Kalamazoo today to face charges.

Lang's body was found late in the day Oct. 17, 1980, in Parking Lot #23, which is across from WMU's Elmwood Apartments. The WMU junior and resident of Ernest Burnham Hall had been reported missing by her roommate. Lang had been shot once in the head and was found in her car. Investigators at the time said the crime had the appearance of an execution-style murder.

Robbery and assault were ruled out during the initial investigation. Investigators learned that Lang had a boyfriend, D'avanzo, who was incarcerated in the Ionia Reformatory at the time of the killing. He later admitted in a phone call to WMU investigators that he had been involved in the murder. He was once charged with conspiracy to commit murder but the charges were later dismissed after the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled his statements inadmissible because of a Miranda rule issue.

Because the actual shooter has not yet been confirmed by police, detectives on the Cold Case Team are continuing the investigation and are seeking additional information on that part of the case. The .22-caliber weapon used in the killing has never been located. The Kalamazoo County Cold Case Team can be reached at (269) 337-8155 or through Silent Observer at (269) 343-2100.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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