Sentenced to death: 4/16/2003
Longo was convicted of killing his wife and three children on the
Oregon coast. The bodies of the four were recovered from two coastal
inlets around Christmas 2001. Longo went on the lam, landing on the
FBI's 10 Most Wanted list before he was captured in Mexico posing as a
Interesting fact: Michael Finkel, the freelance writer Longo
impersonated in Mexico, was later fired from The New York Times Magazine
for fabricating a story about a young African worker. Since then, he has
signed a deal to write a book that intertwines his firing and Longo's
Status: Death Row.
Federal Bureau of
January 14, 2002
Charles Mathews, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI
in Oregon, announces that FBI agents have transported Christian Michael
Longo back to the United States. Longo and his FBI escort landed at the
Houston, Texas airport at about 7:45 AM Pacific time today on a
Continental Flight that originated in Cancun. Mexican authorities,
accompanied by FBI agents, arrested Longo Sunday evening at about 6:20
PM Pacific time in the small town of Tulum, Mexico. Tulum is
approximately 60 miles south of Cancun. The arrest was without incident.
On Friday evening, a woman from
the Montreal area called FBI Headquarters after seeing national and
international publicity on the case and checking the FBI's web site (www.fbi.gov).
She had recently traveled to Cancun, Mexico and recognized the
photograph of Christian Longo. The woman says she arrived in Cancun on
December 27, 2001. That day she met a man named "Brad" at a Cancun
hostel. He later told her his name was "Mike". She left the hostel on
December 29, 2001.
Additional information was
received at the American Embassy in Mexico City that Longo had stayed at
the Hostel Mexico, a youth hostel in Cancun. Investigators determined
that he had left the youth hostel on January 7, 2002. Publicity in
Mexico helped investigators locate Longo at a beach camp in Tulum. He
was living in a beach camp there under the name of Michael Longo. When
approached by approximately 20 Mexican law enforcement officers and FBI
agents, Longo confirmed his identity. Over the course of the next few
hours, he agreed to be transported back to Cancun and to board a plane
to the United States early this morning.
Upon landing in Houston, the FBI
agents formally took Longo into federal custody. He will go through the
normal process for a fugitive, including questioning and fingerprinting.
Later today, he will be booked into the Harris County, Texas jail where
he will await an appearance before a federal magistrate. At that time,
the magistrate will confirm Longo's identity and begin extradition
Longo was wanted on a Lincoln
County, Oregon warrant charging him with multiple counts of aggravated
murder in the deaths of his wife, Mary Jane, and their three children.
Federal authorities had also charged him with Unlawful Flight to Avoid
The FBI would like to thank the
Mexican immigration authorities and Mexican law enforcement authorities
for their assistance.
Ore. v. Longo: A family's murder
Nov. 21, 2003
(Court TV) With his boyish good looks, well-spoken
demeanor and religious upbringing, Christian Longo seemed an unlikely
candidate for the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. But when the bodies of his
wife and three small children were discovered floating in waters near
their Newport, Ore., home, Longo vanished and quickly became the prime
When authorities finally caught up to him in Mexico where
he had been staying on the beach allegedly impersonating a New York
Times travel writer and courting a young German photographer the 29-year-old
Longo returned to Oregon to face charges that he murdered his 34-year-old
wife Mary Jane and the couple's three children Madison, 2, Sadie, 3,
and Zachery, 4.
Prosecutors called Longo an ice-cold, calculating
serial liar who grew tired of his family. The defense, however,
contended Longo was broken by extreme financial hardships and that he
was not responsible for two of the deaths.
Though Longo faced the death penalty if convicted, he
pleaded guilty to murdering his wife and youngest child before his trial
even began on March 10, 2003. In a bizarre move, Longo admitted to Mary
Jane and Madison's murders without any plea deal being offered by
A Lincoln County jury was left to decide whether he
was also guilty of murdering his two elder children, and whether he
deserved to die by lethal injection. In weighing their decision, jurors
considered the words of Longo himself, who offered chilling testimony
from the stand. During his testimony he revealed for the first time his
claim that it was his wife who murdered Sadie and Zachery, which he said
prompted him to strangle Mary Jane and then kill his youngest child.
A House of Cards
Raised in Ypsilanti Township, Mich., by strict
Jehovah's Witness parents, Longo told investigators that he had a happy
childhood. Actively involved in his church, he received training at a
young age to participate in the door-to-door ministry.
Though he didn't date until his late teens, he was
married at 19 to a woman seven years older, Mary Jane Baker, whom he
first met in the church parking lot.
Even before the wedding, Longo began to experience
money problems when he bought Baker a three-and-a-half carat diamond
engagement ring on a payment plan. One month, he didn't have enough
money to cover both the rent and the ring payment, so he stole $108 from
the camera store where he worked. When the employees were questioned
about the missing money, Longo kept quiet.
But the next morning, he said, his conscience got to
him and he left a check for the missing money on the counter along with
a letter of resignation. Rent didn't get paid that month.
Longo's roommates, also Jehovah Witnesses, informed
congregation elders of the incident and Longo was sanctioned, losing
some of his responsibilities within the congregation. Mary Jane stood by
him, but because of the sanctions the two were not able to get married
in the Kingdom Hall. Longo says he was repentant, and felt he'd learned
"I was determined that I would never do anything
along those lines again; anything that was not only illegal, but immoral,
But Longo's admitted addiction to new cars, nice
clothes and tropical vacations tapped out most of his credit even before
the birth of the couple's first child, Zachery. Things only got harder
financially since Mary Jane Longo stopped working to take care of the
baby, and two more children came within the next two years. While the
couple was thrilled about the kids, finances continued to deteriorate.
Longo says he could not go to his parents for help, because of pride.
Christian Longo started a construction clean-up
subcontracting business with another Jehovah's Witness. The business
took off quickly, but despite a booming start was soon in debt because of
a too rapid expansion.
The Longo family's credit cards were maxed out and
nothing was coming in, but to their relatives and other church members,
everything seemed fine. To keep up appearances, Longo exaggerated the
success of his company so convincingly that his own father invested
tens of thousands of dollars in the business.
Soon after, Longo was showing off a boat and two jet
skis he told friends he'd won in a contest and bought two cars. But the
Longo's money problems were far from over. One morning, Longo said, he
was awoken to the noise of a tow truck in his driveway, repossessing his
Ford Taurus. When their other car broke down, he made himself a fake
driver's license, presented it to take a Pontiac Montana for a test
drive and never returned the car to the dealership lot.
When his wife began asking him why they hadn't
received any billing statements in the mail for the new vehicle, Longo
created bogus ones on his computer and mailed them to their address.
Things were not going well in the Longo marriage
either. In May 2000, Mary Jane Longo called her sister, saying she had
discovered e-mails from her husband to another woman. When she
confronted him about them, he allegedly told her that she hadn't been
any fun since having children and that he didn't love her anymore. In
spite of the troubles, Mary Jane Longo stayed with her husband. She did,
however, tell the elders in the congregation about the situation. Though
there is no indication that Longo had a physical relationship with
another woman, Longo was sanctioned by his church once again.
Soon, the cash-strapped Longo put his computer to
more use. He printed false checks from companies that owed his business
money and cashed them. Before long, the companies contacted police, and
Longo found himself in a courtroom for the first time in September 2000.
He pleaded guilty and received three years' probation,
but because he exaggerated his income out of his persistent concern for
appearances, he was ordered to pay restitution payments far greater than
he could handle. When elders from the congregation read about Longo's
check forgeries in a local newspaper, Longo was finally disfellowshipped
from the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Longo claimed the incident led to a "watershed moment"
with his wife, in which he promised her he would be truthful and that
they'd straighten out their finances, but not before giving "one last
present to each other" corrective eye surgery for Mary Jane and scuba
diving lessons for Longo.
With their finances in shambles and their credit run
out, Longo obtained a credit card in his father's name. He amassed
nearly $100,000 in debt in Joseph Longo's name without his knowledge.
On the Move
With friends and church members concerned about Mary
Jane stopping by and creditors relentlessly calling, Christian Longo
decided it was time to make a new start. Though moving out of state
would violate the conditions of Christian's probation, the Longos
picked up and moved from Michigan to a warehouse in Toledo, Ohio.
Longo said he planned to renovate the warehouse into
a loft-style living space. But in the meantime, the family of five had
to make due without kitchen facilities or adequate plumbing. Longo lied
to his wife, telling her the rent had been paid for six months, but
meanwhile was cashing more forged checks around the area to stay afloat.
After the move, Mary Jane Longo drifted out of touch
with her family. Her sister, Sally Clark, finally managed to find them
by driving to Toledo, canvassing the area and spotting their dog outside
the building. According to Clark, she spoke to Mary Jane to make sure
everything was all right, but Mary Jane refused to leave her husband and
return to Michigan.
Longo was unnerved when cops caught on to stolen
machinery he was attempting to sell. Before he could be charged with
receiving stolen construction equipment and passing bad checks, Longo
had already picked up his family moved once again.
At one point, Mary Jane and her husband were driving
separately down the road in the stolen SUV and a stolen Penske moving
truck, essentially running from the law. Mary Jane, he says, had no idea
that anything was wrong. They kept moving, staying at campsites and
motels, spending little. Later, they hocked Mary Jane's wedding ring for
a few hundred dollars.
Mary Jane's siblings had by this time filed missing
person's reports with authorities. Christian Longo's parents were also
worried, and his mother said she told one federal agency, "Does somebody
have to die before you do something?"
The Longos eventually went to Oregon, where they
rented a small vacation house in Waldport. Only a few weeks after their
arrival, however, he fell behind on payments and was denied a reprieve.
He pawned some "crab rings" he stole from the
property before leaving, and used the money for a room at a Newport,
Ore., motor inn.
They moved onward and upward when Longo convinced the
manager of a nearby bay-front condominium complex that he was a
telephone company employee waiting for a paycheck. The manager bought
his story, and allowed the Longos to move in to the $1,500 a month condo
with no money up front.
Longo found a part-time job at the Starbucks counter
in a Fred Meyer variety store. Humiliated, he told his boss and fellow
employees that he lived off a lucrative Internet business but took the
part-time job because he liked Starbucks coffee.
The family struggled, running out of money only days
after paychecks arrived. The rent on the condo did not get paid and
groceries were scarce. Longo says he was forced to pump a tank of gas
and drive away without paying. In a police interview after his arrest,
Longo described standing on the balcony of his condo with his family
sleeping inside, looking out over the dark bay.
He knew they would soon have to leave the condominium
but hadn't broken the news to his wife yet. Longo would later describe
this night on Dec. 16, 2001, as "the beginning of the end."
On Dec. 19, 2001, a man in a Waldport RV park
notified police about a gruesome find the body of a small boy
floating face down in the water near his lot. The boy's digitally
enhanced photograph was quickly released to the news media.
A couple who occasionally babysat the children came
forward and told police that the child in the photo looked like 4-year-old
Three days later, as divers searched the shallow
slough where Zach was found, the body of a small girl was discovered
weighed down with a rock in a pillowcase tied to her ankle. Both
children were clad only in underwear.
On Dec. 27, divers deployed to search local waterways
in the days that followed found two suitcases under a dock at a marina
adjacent to the condominium complex where the Longo family had been
staying. One contained the tiny body of Madison, 2, some clothing and a
dumbbell. Wisps of hair stuck out of the other, which contained the
naked remains of Mary Jane Longo.
Autopsies later determined the four victims had
likely died of asphyxia, and that there was evidence of blunt force
trauma on the face of Mary Jane Longo. There was also some evidence,
although disputed, that Zachery and Sadie died from drowning.
Police initially sought Christian Longo for
questioning as a witness. But by Dec. 28, the missing Longo had been charged
with murdering his family. He made the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, while
Longo's parents cooperated with "America's Most Wanted." A tip led
authorities to the Mexican cabana where Longo was staying with a German
photographer, whom he allegedly identified himself to as Michael Finkel,
a former travel writer for the New York Times.
On Jan. 13, 2002, Mexican federales and FBI Agent Dan
Clegg nabbed Longo.
Following his arrest, Longo detailed for authorities
the days following his family's demise, but stopped short of providing
them with a confession. Longo said that after Dec. 16 he tried to
distract himself by renting a movie, going to the gym and attending the
Starbucks Christmas party at a local pizzeria, where he told co-workers
that his wife had left him for another man. A day after hearing reports
on the news that the body of a little boy had been discovered, he picked
up his final paycheck and drove to San Francisco. Though he applied for
another Starbucks job there, he left the country and headed for Cancun,
According to authorities, upon his arrival he rented
a cabana, began spending time with a group of young British travelers,
smoked pot, toured ruins and, pretending to be a journalist himself, was
seen cuddling with an attractive travel photographer, Janina Franke.
He allegedly admitted to a federal agent that his
looks and speaking skills had helped him get away with innumerable cons
and crimes along the way. "That's been my downfall," he said.
A flurry of pretrial activity concerned the defense's
claim that Longo had been "tricked" into returning to the United States
after his capture. Clegg, they contended, failed to inform Longo of his
right to counsel, who would have undoubtedly assured Longo that Mexico
would not extradite a criminal with the death penalty on the table.
Instead, the defense charged, Clegg told Longo that
unless he returned voluntarily, he'd likely spend months in a Mexican
prison, prompting Longo to quickly agree to accompany Clegg on his own
Before boarding their flight at the Cancun airport,
Longo signed a waiver of rights. The first time Longo learned that
Oregon has the death penalty was reportedly on the flight to their first
stop in Houston, when Clegg casually said, "I don't think they'll give
you the death penalty," the defense claimed.
Longo's attorneys said they tried to bargain with
prosecutors to avoid the death penalty but that the state would not
Shortly before trial, Longo pleaded guilty to the
murders of Mary Jane and Madison Longo, without a deal. At that time, he
refused to enter a plea on the charges of killing Sadie and Zachery, and
the court entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
The defense failed to convince Judge Robert
Huckleberry to grant them a change of venue. The community sentiment,
claimed the attorneys, made a fair trial impossible. Huckleberry,
however, ruled that, short of moving the trial out of state, it would be
impossible to escape the effects of permeating media coverage.
The Prosecution's Case
The prosecution contended Christian Longo was a cold-hearted
killer who simply decided that his family was too much of a burden for
him. There is evidence, according to prosecutors Steven Briggs and
Paulette Sanders, that Longo planned the murders months in advance.
On his computer, investigators found information from
a Web site called "Hitman Online," which offers advice on methods of
murder. They also found obituaries with personal information scribbled
in the margins, implying Longo was planning an identity change.
Longo also made sure that Mary Jane was isolated from
her relatives, they said, even sending a card from her to her sister
from another state to lay a false trail. Perhaps most telling, argued
prosecutors, is that many personal belongings were ditched along the way,
such as family photos, clothing and the children's baby books.
Although they admitted they have no direct evidence
to link Longo with the killings, one witness placed Longo on the Lint
Slough Bridge in the early morning hours of Dec. 17, 2001. A local man,
Dick Hoch, contacted authorities after he heard about the bodies found
in the waters and reported he had encountered a man in a reddish minivan that
stopped on the narrow bridge.
Prosecutors contend that that was when the bodies of
Longo's two elder children were thrown into the water.
A couple staying at the same condo complex as the
Longos complained to management the next day about loud "dragging"
sounds coming from a nearby room.
Longo's own statements also trapped him, claimed
prosecutors. Although he steadfastly refused to discuss with police how
the deaths occurred, agent Dan Clegg claimed Longo told him, "I sent
them to a better place."
The Defense's Case
Defense lawyers Steven Krasik and Ken Hadley argued
there was only a single piece of evidence connecting Christian Longo in
any way to the murders of his two older children Hoch's testimony. But
the attorneys argued the photo identification by Hoch was conducted in a
questionable manner at best. The detectives' office was "a shrine" to
the Longo family, they said, with pictures posted all over the room.
Hoch identified Longo from the FBI wanted poster, stipulating that it
looked like the man he saw except for a fuller face and thinning hair.
This "identification," argued the defense, tainted any further testimony
The defense claimed that the family was still alive
on Dec. 17 and that they had visited Longo at work. But security tapes
from Fred Meyer that could have proved their contention had already been
recycled, destroying the only concrete proof that the prosecution's
theory is erroneous, they said.
The couple claiming to hear loud noises likely were
hearing rambunctious guests returning from a Christmas party, they said.
The defense also pointed out that the bodies of Mary
Jane and Madison Longo were disposed in a very different manner and
location than Zachery and Sadie Longo. In addition, they said, there is that
the two older children drowned, further setting their deaths apart from
Mary Jane's and Madison's. Why, ask the attorneys, would Longo kill two
members of his family by asphyxiation yet leave Zachery and Sadie alive
until he threw them into the dark slough?
As for the interviews with investigators, the defense
denied there was anything incriminating about them. Clegg's statement
that Longo told him, "I sent them to a better place," is simply untrue,
his lawyers said. It is inconsistent with his religious upbringing, they
said, since a Jehovah's Witness would not use such terminology.
Christian Longo was his own key witness. Two days
into his testimony, the defendant revealed for the first time his
version of the events that led to the deaths of his wife and children.
He said he and Mary Jane had a date on Dec. 15, when
she told her husband she felt things were going well for the family, but
confronted him about lies she suspected he had been telling.
After the conversation, Longo said, he struggled with
whether he should come clean with his wife. Realizing their days were
numbered in the condo because of the unpaid rent, he returned from work
on Dec. 16 and had some wine and cheese while pondering his situation.
Longo said he finally went to bed but couldn't sleep.
When Mary Jane asked him what was wrong, he slowly began disclosing many
things to her. During an all-night conversation, he said, Mary Jane
became emotional in a way he'd never seen before. After admitting to her
that even the family van was stolen and contained stolen gasoline, and
that their condo had not been paid for, Mary Jane became fed up, he
testified. Longo said that she berated him for 45 minutes, slapped him
and told him she would never be able to trust him again.
Longo said he left her in the bedroom and went to get
a few hours of sleep on the couch, and was woken up by a playful Zachery.
When he returned to check on Mary Jane, he found that she had vomited on
The morning of Dec. 17, Longo said he pleaded with
his wife to let him stay home from work and offered to take care of the
children so she could have time alone. She yelled at him that he had to
get to work, he testified, and that she eventually drove him there.
Longo said he kissed his children goodbye. Madison reached up so that
her Scooby-Doo toy could also give him a kiss before he left the van and
went to work.
After his shift ended, Mary Jane was in the parking
lot waiting for him as usual to pick him up, only she was dressed in
nothing but a bathrobe and was barefoot. The children were not with her,
he said. She would not speak to him on the way home.
When the couple reached their apartment, Mary Jane
began hesitate and whimper, he said, and he had to pick her up and help
her inside the house where she slumped on the floor.
Longo claimed he found Madison lifeless on the bed,
and then began to try to shake an answer out of his hysterical wife, who
told him, "You did this, you killed us," and told him the other two
children were "in the water."
Longo said he lost control at that moment, and
wrapped his hands around Mary Jane's neck, dropped her, picked her up,
repositioned his hands, and squeezed until he was unable to hold her up
After Mary Jane was dead, Longo said he decided to
dispose of the bodies in two large suitcases. But when he went to his
baby daughter he suddenly realized that the child was still alive.
"Even though she was breathing, I thought of her as
dead at that point," he said on the stand, so he began smothering
Madison. He stopped, saw her breathing again, and gripped her throat.
After she, too, had stopped breathing, he said he felt as if the big
suitcase was too big for her tiny body. He filled it with her clothes "to
make it more comfortable." He threw the suitcases in the water behind
While Longo's detailed account stunned the courtroom,
prosecutors would later try to debunk his version of events. Not only
did Mary Jane have no history of violence or even a bad temper, but at
110 pounds would be physically unable to dump her children in the water
with heavy rocks attached, they pointed out.
On April 7, 2003, after approximately four hours of
deliberation, the jury found Christian Longo guilty of the aggravated
murders of two of his children, 4-year-old Zachery and 3-year-old Sadie.
One juror commented that, while the circumstantial evidence alone did
not convince him, Longo's own testimony "did him in."
The same jury reconvened to hear testimony in the
penalty phase of the trial to determine if Longo deserved the death
penalty for all four murders.
The Penalty Phase
The prosecution contended Christian Longo was a
professional con man who manipulated everyone he encountered with
amazing proficiency. If not confined to death row and eventually put to
death, prosecutors argued, Longo would pose a clear danger to even the
Since his capture and incarceration in Lincoln County
Jail, where he was held while awaiting trial, Longo committed several
infractions such as chipping a hole in his cell window in a purported
escape plan that included enlisting the help of a fellow inmate.
Along with other infractions, Longo sent letters to
other inmates, including females ones. Prosecutors argued such behavior
would pose a grave security risk if Longo were allowed into the general
population of the institution.
The defense, however, pointed out there was no
evidence of violence in Longo's history. He didn't have any signs of
being violent as a child, never beat his wife and never started any
fights behind bars. In fact, Longo's lawyers argued, his behavior during
his incarceration was generally good, and his infractions were minor and
very common. The "escape attempt," they say, was simply an effort to
make a small hole to see outside. This has been attempted by many
prisoners since the windows of the jail were sandblasted, following
community complaints that prisoners had better ocean views than the
town's law-abiding citizens.
Defense attorneys also said that Joseph Longo, the
man who raised Christian Longo, is actually his stepfather and adoptive
father. Christian Longo's biological father, they said. was a violent
alcoholic who abused Longo's mother Joy, including an outburst while she
was pregnant with Christian. The defense claimed Longo's biological
father whipped his pregnant wife across the stomach with a bicycle chain
in an attempt to make her miscarry. He occasionally beat Christian as
well, they said, until Longo's parents split up.
On April 16, 2003, the same jury deliberated for six
hours before sentencing Longo to death for all four killings. Several of
the jurors said they felt that someone with Longo's intelligence and
people skills would be a threat not a victim in any situation, and
that they therefore had no choice but to put him on death row.
When the trial first began, one of the jurors said he
thought authorities must have made a mistake when he saw the boyish,
clean-cut young man sitting in the defendant's chair.
But by the time they delivered their final verdict,
the jury agreed to "look Longo squarely in the eye" while the sentence
was read to send him a message that he didn't "fool" them and that he
was no longer in control.