Unidentified for nearly two years, a Graham County teen who was found dead in a float box in Artesia in 2020 has finally gotten back her name, and law enforcement officials have charged her mother as her suspected killer.
Known alternatively in past media reports as “Artesia Doe” or “Artesia Jane Doe,” Cadence Langley, 14, was finally identified through recent DNA analysis that linked her to mother, Amber Langley.
Amber Langley was originally arrested on Aug. 24 on fraud-related charges. She was re-arrested on Sept. 1 and booked for murder.
According to a press release issued late Wednesday evening by the Graham County Sheriff’s Office, the Graham County Attorney’s Office filed a criminal complaint against the victim’s mother, Amber Langley Sept.1 for first degree murder for her alleged involvement in the death her daughter.
“Some items collected in connection with the search warrants will be sent to forensic facilities for further analysis. Elements of the investigation remain on-going,” the release said.
At an Aug. 31 hearing in front of Justice of the Peace District 1 Judge Gary Griffith, Sgt. Mark Smith of the Graham County Sheriff’s Office took the witness stand, stating “Cadence was probably an autistic child.” He cited government assistance records and alleged that Langley had been collecting Social Security benefits on Cadence’s behalf from the time her body was found, on Oct. 26, 2020, to January 2022.
On the witness stand, Smith recounted the discovery of the girl’s body, providing backstory to the court after being asked to testify by Graham County Attorney L. Scott Bennett on behalf of the state of Arizona.
The Sheriff’s Office was contacted by a couple of dove hunters who’d come across the remains “of what they thought was a human” partially submerged in the float box of a water tank at a set of corrals approximately eight miles east of U.S. Highway 191. Responding deputies confirmed the remains were human. According to a statement from Graham County Sheriff P.J. Allred at the time the body was found, it was suspected the remains might have been that of child as toys were found with the body.
An Oct. 28, 2020, autopsy by the Pima County Medical Examiner revealed a single gunshot wound to the back of the victim’s skull. Bullet fragments were retrieved from the victim’s head.
After the sex of the victim was confirmed, local officials began checking for missing local girls. The search then expanded to the state level, utilizing police networks. According to Smith, a tooth and a hair from the victim were submitted to Astrea Forensics in California and a DNA profile was created.
“There was also a bone fragment sent to the FBI laboratory,” Smith said. “So they developed a DNA profile also.”
After receiving results from Astrea, “Innovative Forensic Investigations reached out and offered to perform a genealogic investigation for us using that DNA profile,” he said.
That investigation was key to the eventual arrest of Amber Langley. Forensics found a “strong lead” indicating that the young girl was the daughter of Amber Langley, an Air Force veteran, and John Wesley Langley Jr. The Langleys reportedly have two other children together.
GCSO was able to determine the body was a child of the Langleys, while further investigation confirmed Amber Langley had been receiving benefits as the payee for Cadence from the Social Security Administration, Smith stated.
Special agent Eric Olson with the SSA Inspector General’s Office in Phoenix began conducting an investigation into Langley, Smith testified. He subpoenaed USAA bank, where Social Security deposits went directly into Langley’s account from January 2020 to Jan. 30, 2022.
When Bennett asked Smith how much money was deposited during this time period, Smith replied, “It was 4,700 and some odd dollars.”
“It was Social Security disability benefits for Cadence,” he added.
“Was that money being spent in Graham County?” Bennett asked.
“Yes sir,” Smith replied.
“There’s purchases all over here,” he said. “There’s purchases ordering pizza here,” he added.
However, when contacted by Olson, Langley allegedly lied about her Arizona residency. She reportedly told investigators Cadence was alive, and together, they were living at her mother’s home in Oregon.
But law enforcement knew Cadence was deceased, Smith said, and had ample proof from leases, bank statements and debit card transactions that placed Langley in Graham County, including at two different addresses in Safford during the time of the investigation: 1010 S. Eighth Ave. and 2015 W. Relation St.
In May, the Langley child was identified as Cadence.
In June, investigators met to determine next steps.
“Mr. Olson determined based on what they had seen, it was time for what they called, a redetermination,” Smith said. “So he, he was going to call Amber and conduct a redetermination interview over the phone, as it was recorded.”
That’s when Langley insisted Cadence was still alive.
After Smith’s testimony, Bennett had no further witnesses and asked for a five-minute recess. After, he argued on behalf of the state that Langley be held on $500,000 bond.
“I think we have on the record from the testimony here today, that there are other issues going on in this defendant’s life that will likely result in criminal investigation and prosecution,” Bennett said.
“We know the defendant knew that her daughter is not with us,” he said.
Furthermore, he pointed out, Langley continued to receive benefits and lied to investigators about where she lived.
“It’s at least a possibility that she might not comply with those orders,” Bennett said, referring to returning to court for her arraignment.
“Judge, I think this bond is appropriate,” he finished.
Dennis McCarthy, the attorney assigned to represent Langley, wished to reconsider release conditions based on numerous factors: no record of failure to appear; an established address in the area, and Langley being a military veteran with other children in her care.
“She has a powerful incentive to remain here,” he said.
“We’re talking about less than $5,000 of money that is allegedly taken,” McCarthy added. “This is ludicrous, and it’s a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution of excessive bail,” he said. “This is a fraud case that’s before you. This is not a homicide here before you,” he said.
McCarthy asked that Langley’s bond be set at $3,000.
“If the state has a case to file, it should file,” he said regarding additional criminal charges. “They haven’t.”
“I think that there is a high likelihood of failure to appear given the situation here,” Judge Griffith said. “But I do think $500,000 is high for what we have now.”
He set Langley’s bail for $200,000. An arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 13 at 8:30 a.m.