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Mother, state police pursue answers 11 years after woman’s murder in Derry Township

April 5, 2018 GMT

Easter was Samantha Joann Lang’s favorite time of year, Carol Polo recalled Monday as she spoke of her daughter, who was brutally murdered 11 years ago Tuesday in Derry Township.

“She would have been buying stuff for the Easter egg hunt for the kids for months already. She loved hiding Easter eggs for her nieces and little brother, Jacob,” Polo said of her 22-year-old daughter, who was found dead inside her father’s home at 5397 Route 982 on March 27, 2007.

“Sam never got a chance to have her own kids, but oh, how she loved them. She even joined the elementary school PTO when Jacob was little to help out,” Polo said.

Samantha was found dead at about 9 p.m. in the home near the village of Peanut, where she lived with her father and brother. A family friend who stopped by discovered Lang’s body on the floor between the kitchen and living room in a pool of blood, according to police.

Troopers said her throat was slashed.

A $5,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest and conviction of the killer.

“I know more than one person knows what happened to her. We’re just looking for one puzzle piece that we haven’t located yet, but we’re going to find it,” Polo said.

Police said the house was a known hub of “drug activity.”

Samantha’s father, James C. Lang Jr., and her older brother, James III, both were in the Westmoreland County Prison at the time of the slaying. Polo and James Lang divorced in 1999.

A 2004 graduate of Greater Latrobe High School, Lang had started a job at Laurel Nursery in Unity the week she died. She was taking courses at the Western School of Business in Monroeville to become a paralegal.

“She was going to make something of herself. She was a great kid (who could) light up a room with her smile and had a lot of friends,” Polo said.

On the day she was killed, police noted “a strong smell of marijuana” inside the one-story home, according to a search warrant affidavit. It appeared someone had ransacked the house.

A rear door had been forced open, and a gray metal safe was left on a bed. A metal lock box was found on the back porch, investigators said.

Police found Lang’s cellphone near her body.

Polo, who lives in Latrobe, said investigators told her they may resubmit some evidence to the state police forensic laboratory for further analysis.

“I’m hopeful. And there are some new investigators on the case. ... That means a new set of eyes looking at the evidence,” Polo said.

State police spokesman Trooper Steve Limani said Monday that troopers are hopeful that renewed publicity on the case will generate a fresh tip that could result in an arrest.

“We’ve been actively working on it since it happened and have a lot of information. Just because time has passed doesn’t mean we’ve put it on a back burner,” Limani said.

“There’s constant evolution on testing of DNA evidence, and we work closely with the forensics experts at the lab to see if something could turn up,” he said.

Tips can be anonymous, Limani said.

“Someone may have heard someone say something that will give us a chance to pursue that information,” he said.

In the years since the murder, Polo has lost two of her closest fighters in seeking justice for Samantha — her 17-year-old son, Jacob, on Jan. 5, 2017, and daughter, Rachel Ann Miller, 37, who died on April 20, 2016.

“Rachel always stood right here next to me when I spoke about Sam, and it’s tough without her. But Sam deserves justice, and I think she’ll get justice one day,” Polo said.

Anyone with information can call state police at 724-832-3288 or by calling Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-4PA-TIPS.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860, ppeirce@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.