Tom Lange – Vietnam War Hero
Tom investigated the Wonderland case in 1981. We did not hear from him much until O.J. in 1994, when the Nicole Brown/Ronald Goldman murders hit the news. That’s Tom talking to the Juice on the phone during the low-speed chase.
An excerpt from “Evidence Dismissed – The Inside Story of the Police Investigation of O.J. Simpson” by Dan E. Moldea:
Neither Lange nor Vannatter had originally given much thought to becoming police officers. Born in Milwaukee on April 14, 1945 and raised in Coral Gables, Florida, Frederick Douglas Lange–who had been nicknamed “Tom” by his two older sisters–moved to Los Angeles County with his mother after the death by heart attack of her estranged husband, Lange’s father, in 1960. As a young teenager, Lange was a runaway in the San Fernando Valley and was detained twice by police for minor infractions. However, Lange straightened out, somewhat, while attending a strict Catholic school. A long-distance runner on his high school’s cross-country and track-and-field teams, Lange remained rebellious and had no interest in college after graduation. Unlike many children of the 1960s, Lange expressed his rebellion by joining the U.S. Marines and going to Vietnam in June 1965. After a distinguished tour of duty with intensive combat experience, Sergeant Lange left the Marines in October 1966, refusing to re-enlist even after being offered Officers Candidate School.
After returning home from the war, Lange drifted for nearly a year, unable to land a decent job. He traveled around the country, visiting the families of war buddies who hadn’t come home. Eventually, he wound up back in Los Angeles, putting up tents for large events and getting paid ten-to-twenty bucks a day. Then, he went to work for Clairol beauty supplies, putting little boxes into big boxes. He slept on his mother’s sofa and spent most of his time hanging out with other vets.
Finally, while pumping gas in North Hollywood for Standard Oil, Lange became acquainted with a LAPD cop who gassed up at his service station. The officer encouraged Lange to take the tests for the LAPD. Lange did and passed with high marks.
He graduated from the LAPD Academy in January 1968. After a variety of assignments, he became an investigator at Central Juvenile and Central Detectives, earning his associate degree in Administration of Justice from Los Angeles Valley College in 1976. While working on the infamous Skid-Row Stabber Murders case, he became a member of the Robbery/Homicide Division in November 1978, working, at first, on loan from the Central Division. He eventually solved the murders after identifying a mere palm print left by the killer at one of the crime scenes. The following year, in October 1979–the same month as his marriage to his wife, Linda–Lange was permanently assigned to RHD, where he met Phil Vannatter.