Calif. Woman Beheaded; Son Is Suspect

Deputies found Aurelia Lange lying on the bathroom floor, her decapitated head by her side. Her teenage son was nearby, naked, covered in blood and reading a Bible.

Investigators believe David Lange cut off his mother’s head with a kitchen knife, but they don’t know why.

“This is really weird because there’s no history [of violence] on this guy at all,” Assistant Merced County Sheriff Henry Strength said Monday. “We have no idea why this thing happened.”

Lange, an 18-year-old house painter, was being held without bail on suspicion of murdering his 50-year-old mother. He had been on probation in the past, but probation officials said his file was sealed.

Mysterious Death

Relatives could not shed much light on the slaying last Friday at Delhi, a town of 7,700 people in farmland about 110 miles south of San Francisco. Last month, the same county was shaken after two children were killed with pitchforks by an assailant who entered their farmhouse.

Investigators discovered the killing after one of Aurelia Lange’s daughters called from a nearby town and asked deputies to check her mother, saying the woman had told her she fell down a flight of stairs.

Strength said the daughter also reported that the mother said her “son was getting out of hand and that she was having arguments with him.”

Deputies saw a man lying on the floor about 10 feet from Aurelia Lange’s body. He eventually walked out of the house and surrendered.

Drug Tests Being Conducted

Strength would not comment on the possibility that Lange was under the influence of narcotics. Drug tests could take weeks to complete.

In the pitchfork killings, investigators incorrectly jumped to the conclusion that drugs drove a man to break into the farmhouse and kill the children. Police shot and killed the intruder. Tests eventually showed no evidence of drugs or alcohol.

“I would have given up a year’s salary to tell you [the pitchfork killer] was on drugs,” Strength said. “I don’t even want to speculate on this guy.”