Covering a Killing 

Inside the bloom of chainlink, concrete and razor-decked concertina wire that comprises the Montana State Prison, people from the media are enjoying cookies, coffee and pop. In a building in which high-security inmates receive visitors, play board games and read an ancient edition of the World Book Encyclopedia, a press conference on the execution has just ended.

The mood among reporters from Montana's papers and television stations is comparable to that at a particularly tense cocktail party, one where the jokes fall a little flat. When the commissary staff charged with preparing the snacks asks the hungry press corps to wait before plunging into the deli trays, one photographer quips, "Don't worry, we've got plenty of time. Now if we were Terry Langford, it'd be a different story."

The presentation by Warden Mike Mahoney and other prison officials is smooth and evinces confidence in their ability to carry out the order of the people's courts. The only slip-up comes when Mahoney describes Langford's behavior behind bars as trouble-free. Reminded of the five inmates Langford helped kill during the riot, he corrects himself.

The Max Building itself, Langford's home for the past 10 years, sits stark and alone in a yard separated from both high-security and low-security sections. Inside its walls, 96 cells hold the worst of Montana's worst, the narrow windows providing an arrowslit view of snow-laced mountains beyond the prison.

Bill Perry, the mustachioed man who runs Max, leads reporters down the hall between the cell block housing Langford to the holding cell where he will spend his last hours in the company of a stainless steel sink/toilet assembly, a cot and a folding chair. The journalists record that Langford's requested a bucket of fried chicken legs, mashed potatoes with gravy and a banana split for his last meal.

The reporters, particularly the TV crews, seem to have the formula of covering an execution down cold. A camera follows a man's shoes down the path between the holding cell and execution trailer, and various estimates on the number of steps are thrown around -- somewhere between 30 and 38 paces, the consensus seems to be.

As the reporters leave the trailer, they're greeted by the disembodied eyes of prisoners glaring through their tiny windows. Some of the pairs of eyes are impassive, but some leap out with all the ferocity of something tightly wound and caged. They won't be able to look out on the night of the execution -- jailers will cover the openings -- but today nothing blocks these inmates' view of the press corps.

Langford is on the other side of the building, with no view of the place where he's scheduled to die. Perry reports that Langford is seeing no one, taking exercise and recreation time alone as prison procedure dictates a man under death warrant should. A number of prison officials, Perry included, say Langford is at peace and hasn't made any trouble.

"The man," he says, "is very calm, cool and collected."

Back at Trixi's owner Cindy Francis says that as of right now, no celebration is planned for the night of the execution. It's difficult to believe, though, that the night will pass without patrons marking the death of the man who was dropped off a decade ago, 20 yards from where they park their pick-up trucks. The man who killed a family within their family.


Courtesy of Silver State Post Langford's remained such a mystery that few photos exist aside from his Deer Lodge mug shot.


Terry Allen Langford's Montana roadtrip took a murdurous turn when he climbed off a bus in front of Trixi's bar.


Deer Lodge Warden Mike Mahoney has the unenviable job of taking Langford's last words and signaling the executioner.


A wooded view of the Blackwood property, near where Langford emerged from the hills of Ovando, famished and exhausted.


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