Washington County VA

Friend describes Emory & Henry murder victim as 'little sister'

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - It's the tragedy of a life cut short after the shocking murder of a young woman with a lot of potential. The woman identified as a recent graduate of Emory & Henry College.

Her live-in boyfriend is now charged, accused of shooting her several times.

Ashleigh Langbein at only 23 was a recent graduate. She walked across the stage in May for a bachelor's degree in psychology. Those who knew her best tell us it is simply a heartbreaking loss.

"It was one of those, it kind of hits you right in the gut, so it wasn't really long before tears were falling," Nick Dennis said. Dennis was a friend to Langbein the moment she arrived on campus as a student.

He said, "The day she came to Emory she said she knew who I was before she even turned around and saw me because I was singing as I was walking down the alleyway there."

The two were in choir together and a part of the same theater fraternity. He said the loss of his close friend has been heartbreaking.

"She was always like a little sister to me," Dennis said.

That is not unusual on a small campus like Emory & Henry where dozens showed up Monday night to remember and honor the life of one of their own just hours after learning the shocking news.

"I think it was pretty clear that Ashleigh was one of those people who was going on to do great things in her life. I think it shows that this was not only a tragic loss for the Emory & Henry community, but a tragic loss for the world," Brent Treash said. Treash is the director of public relations at Emory & Henry.

Meanwhile, an investigation continues. Sheriff Fred Newman told us James Joseph Canter III, Langbein's boyfriend who lived with her, showed up to the regional jail in the pre-dawn hours of the shooting. A magistrate there alerted authorities.

"Our magistrate at the office, or at the regional jail, contacted our dispatch and made a statement that this individual was saying that he had gone into the apartment and found his girlfriend in a pool of blood," Newman said.

It is now Canter who is charged in her killing. Commonwealth's Attorney Josh Cumbow tells us it is second-degree murder because Canter is accused of acting while on drugs .

Newman told us Canter has only minor traffic violations from the past. Their records also show they have never been called to the apartment before. His detectives plan more questioning of Canter and hope it will lead to more answers.

There are few answers so far as close personal friends hope to find comfort in the wake of severe tragedy.

"She is a person. She understands people grieve, but I feel like she would want them to grieve in a way that would more celebrate her life," Dennis said.

Canter is expected in court for an arraignment next week. He is charged with second-degree murder and use of the firearm during a felony.

Langbein's body has been sent to Roanoke for an autopsy.


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