The Scotsman (Scotland), Mar. 11, 2003
Financial troubles and the shame of being thrown out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses drove an Oregon man to murder his wife and three young children and dump their bodies along the Pacific coast, a court was told yesterday.
Christian Longo has pleaded guilty to killing his wife and youngest daughter, but has denied being responsible for the deaths of his two other children.
All four bodies were found in December 2001.
Assistant attorney general Steven Briggs said Longo was distraught over his expulsion from the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2000, for passing nearly $30,000 (£18,700) in bad cheques. He also cited police interrogations in which Longo allegedly said he had no idea how to support his family. Mr Briggs said Longo told investigators after his capture at a beach resort in Mexico: “I sent them to a better place.”
The defence is scheduled to give its opening statement later in the trial.
Longo is charged with aggravated murder in the deaths of four-year-old Zachery and three-year-old Sadie.
The state is seeking the death penalty.
Zachery’s body was found floating in an ocean inlet near Waldport on the central Oregon coast. Sadie was found in the same area three days later inside a sleeping bag, her body weighted by a rock in a pillow case.
In a surprise move, Longo pleaded guilty to murdering his wife, MaryJane, 34, and daughter Madison, two. They were found about a week after the other two bodies, stuffed in suitcases under a pier in Newport. Prosecutors did not immediately disclose the cause of the children’s deaths. Mrs Longo died of a blow to the head. Longo’s guilty pleas also have not been explained.
The family arrived in Newport in the autumn of 2001, leaving a trail of bad cheques, fraud and theft charges stretching to Michigan.
Longo took a job at a Starbucks cafe while talking his way into an upmarket flat by saying that he was a telephone company executive.
After the deaths, investigators say, Longo went first to San Francisco and then to Mexico on a ticket bought with a stolen credit card number. He snorkeled and partied at a beach resort near Cancun, allegedly telling tourists he was a travel journalist.
Longo was arrested in Mexico about three weeks after the final two bodies were found.