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Diamond was practically forever

The $25,000 stone was believed long gone until officials were directed to O.C. jail's shower drain.

March 09, 2007|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

Orange County sheriff's officials have found a $25,000 diamond in a most unusual spot: stuck in the drain of a shower stall at the jail housing the man accused of stealing it two years ago.

On Thursday they outlined the circuitous route they believe the 2-carat rock took to get there.

On April 4, 2005, Bret Allen Langford, 39, allegedly walked into a Jewelry Express store at Westminster Mall and asked to see the diamond along with its document of certification. "He grabbed it from the jeweler and ran out to a waiting vehicle," sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said.

Langford was stopped and arrested a short time later, Amormino said, but the diamond was never found. "We found its certificate stuffed under the vehicle's gas cap," Amormino said, "which made us think it was in the tank."

Alas, that proved untrue.

Langford was taken to Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana and charged with commercial burglary. After a series of transfers, Amormino said, Langford ended up at Theo Lacy Branch Jail in Orange, where he remains awaiting trial.

This week, Amormino said, jail officials were approached by an investigator representing Langford with an unusual request: If they were serious about finding that diamond, he said, check out the jailhouse drains.

A search revealed the stone lodged in a screen beneath one of the Orange facility's shower stalls. And in subsequent interviews, Amormino said, Langford unburdened himself of what investigators believe is the truth.

Before being arrested in 2005, Langford reportedly told authorities, he had swallowed the diamond, and regurgitated it after being booked into custody. For the next several months, Langford kept the diamond on his person. Each time he was transferred, Amormino said, he would swallow it and later spit it up. But 14 months ago, according to the spokesman, the prisoner -- about to be searched -- threw the stone into a shower stall, and "unfortunately, it went down the drain."

Amormino said he had no idea what prompted Langford to come forward now. "I suspect it's part of a bargain" made with prosecutors, he said.

Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office, would not confirm such a deal. "I can't speculate as to why the defendant would choose to reveal the location of the diamond," she said. Langford's trial is set to begin May 7.

Though he has pleaded not guilty to the charge, Emami said, he could change his plea at a pretrial hearing today.

And what of the diamond that has spent two years in jail? It will be used as evidence at Langford's trial, Amormino said. Then it will be cleaned and returned to the store.

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david.haldane@latimes.com

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