Larry is a true crime fan and has several years of experience reporting on true crime cases and hosts a true-crime podcast.
The Perfect Family
The Longo family appeared like your typical, middle-class family living in Oregon. Christian Longo married his wife Mary Jane at 19. They were married for eight years and had three children together: Zachary, Sadie, and Madison. Mary Jane stayed at home, while Christian worked at a Starbucks.
The pair were religious, as active Jehovah Witnesses. Christian Longo appeared to be the ideal family man, boyish good looks, well-spoken demeanor and a religious upbringing. Without looking into it, the Longo's lives appeared perfect. However, that all changed in December 2001, when the family was destroyed from the inside. The friends and family, and even the community were caught off guard and shaken to the core, after finding out that Christian Longo, was a cold-blooded killer.
The bodies of Mary Jane, and his three children were recovered from the icy waters off the Oregon coast. On December 19, four-year-old Zachary Longo's body washed ashore. Christian had tied a pillowcase filled with rocks to one of his legs. The body of 34-year-old Mary Jane and his two-year-daughter Madison Longo were discovered under a dock at a marina.
Christian had shoved Mary Jane naked into a suitcase and Madison in another suitcase. The two suitcases had been weighed down with dumbbells. Three-year-old Sadie's body was recovered by police divers. Christian Longo, had tied a pillowcase filled with rocks to Sadie's leg. Police would later say that if Zachary's body did not wash up, they would not have recovered the other bodies, for over a decade.
According to the autopsies, Sadie and Zachary killed from asphyxiation, water was found in their lungs, while Christian had strangled Mary Jane and Madison.
With the Longo family murder, investigators quickly turned to Christian, only to find he had fled. He vanished and had become the prime suspect. The FBI placed him on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. He was facing charges of four counts of aggravated murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Investigators found that Christian had fled to Cancun, Mexico. He got a room at a resort using a stolen credit card and took on the identity of former New York Times writer, Michael Finkel. He managed to con the entire resort community. He would spend time at the beach, getting drunk, going to nightclubs, and romancing a German tourist.
Longo was eventually recognized and captured a few days later. He was deported to the United States and taken into custody. The FBI now turned its focus on investigating why this perfect husband killed his entire family. The investigation revealed that this wasn't Longo's first criminal act.
Longo had been involved in financial scams for years. He would take out loans in other people's names, run up debt, create bogus checks, and use fake IDs to keep creditors away. He even created a fake business and would write counterfeit checks from his clients.
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Mary Jane had no idea of the reality of their situation. Christian had managed to keep the truth hidden from his wife. The family struggled financially, while Christian lived extravagantly, bought fancy cars, and took luxury vacations. Christian's carefree lifestyle came crashing down when he was eventually caught and charged with fraud. He was put on probation and ordered to reimburse his victims.
His life quickly changed, when he cheated on his wife and was found out. The Jehovah Witnesses learned of his dirty laundry and kicked him out immediately. This led to him moving his family from Michigan to Ohio.
Once he got to Michigan, he appeared to want to start a better life, but he really just wanted to dodge creditors. He kept up his criminal activities of cashing forged checks. But his activities eventually drew the attention of local police, causing Michael to pack up his family and move, this time to Oregon.
Christian Finally Faces a Trial
Christian ended up facing the death penalty. He did plead guilty to murdering his wife and youngest child before the trial began. Originally, Christian claimed that his wife killed the two oldest children because she was angry when she found out the truth about their financial situation. Out of anger, he murdered Mary Jane and their youngest child.
During the trial, prosecutors believed Christian grew tired of his family and killed them to relieve himself of the burden. There is also proof that Longo planned the murders months prior. During the investigation, they discovered information on his computer from a website that offered advice on different ways to murder.
Christian even isolated Mary Jane from her family, even sending a card from Mary Jane to her sister from another state, in an attempt to create a false trail. Christian even made sure to dump many personal belongings on the way to Oregon. This even included family photos and baby books.
Defense Fights to Protect Christian
Christian's defense team attempted to defend his actions, arguing that his financial situation broke down Christian and that he was not really responsible for two of the deaths. They pointed out that both bodies of Mary Jane and Madison were disposed of differently. The defense also said that the two older children drowned, leaving them to ask the jury to consider why Christian would kill two of his family members but leave Zachary and Sadie alive when he threw them into the water.
The jury went into deliberations, to decide whether Christian was guilty of murdering his wife and baby and whether he deserved to die by lethal injection. In less than four hours, the jury reached a guilty verdict. The jury came back for the penalty phase and heard testimony, to determine if Longo should receive the death penalty for all four murders. Once again, they quickly deliberated and sentenced Longo to death.
Some of the jurors said that someone with Longo's intelligence and charm would be a threat and they had no choice. Christian is now on death row at Oregon State Pentientiary. However, they have had a suspension on executions since 2011.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.